Christmas Stars: South Yorkshire’s 2012 heroes

Inspirational: Brave Olivia Sagar, 11, with her meet and greet Christmas card from JLS. Photo: Graham Walker.
Inspirational: Brave Olivia Sagar, 11, with her meet and greet Christmas card from JLS. Photo: Graham Walker.
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THEY’RE The Stars of The Star 2012 - the extraordinary everyday heroes who make South Yorkshire so special.

The people who defy difficulties, go above and beyond, and never give up - the people The Star says deserve special praise this Christmas.
PLUCKY Reece Winterbottom has been through more in eight years than most do in a lifetime.

The Sothall schoolboy was still grieving mum Kirsty, who died aged 30 from skin cancer, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

He underwent surgery this year, and must now take drugs for life. But Reece, a Beighton Infant School pupil, and his family are hoping for a happier 2013.

Dad David said: “Reece has gone through a lot.

“But he has never complained. He just gets on with it and is so brave.

“It’s really nice for him to be recognised - he’s been in the paper quite a few times!

“Hopefully everything will be okay in the future.”

COURAGEOUS Ceriann Rush isn’t one for ducking a challenge - even though she suffers brittle bone disease which has caused her constant pain.

Ceriann, 21, was diagnosed at birth. Since then she has broken more than 50 bones, and spent a great deal of time in a wheelchair and as a patient at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

But Ceriann is so grateful for her treatment she now works as a communications assistant at the hospital charity.

And, when she’s not at work, she’s training for a marathon swim to raise £1,000.

Ceriann, of Broomhill, said: “I love coming to work knowing the difference it will make.

“When I reached 30 fractures my family and I stopped counting. But the doctors and the rest of the staff got me on my feet - and kept me there.”

DEDICATED Barrie Trigg has been a member of 23rd Sheffield Company of the Boys’ Brigade for more than 60 years.

He joined aged eight, rose through the ranks, and has now spent 50 years as a member of the staff.

Eventually becoming Captain he has seen the Company change with the times.

Boys used to meet at Lower Shiregreen Methodist Chapel, then he organised their relocation to St James and St Christopher’s Church on Bellhouse Road.

And on Friday nights he can be found overseeing the current 28 members, aged six to their early 20s.

He’s a Brigade National Training Officer, runs an active Duke of Edinburgh programme, and co-ordinates the award for the Sheffield and District Battalion.

Besides being known nationally within Boys’ Brigade circles, he is also renowned locally for his humour and wit.

TEENAGER Kelly Green has proved an inspiration after being blinded in a car crash.

The 17-year-old has helped to raise £2,500 for charity Guide Dogs, and won a young achievers award, following the smash in which an airbag caused her to lose her sight days before her 16th birthday.

But Kelly, of Eckington, has rebuilt her life - and refused to give up on her dreams.

She is working towards studying and travelling in the future, and her family say Kelly’s positive attitude has kept them going.

The Eckington School pupil said: “I was surprised and honoured to be a Star of The Star. I never expected anything.

“Next year I am hoping to set up a charity to help other young people, not just the blind, to get the small things they need to improve their lives.

“It’s the little things that can make a big difference.”

DESPITE saying they ‘wouldn’t volunteer for anything’, Doncaster couple Don and Sandra Crabtree have done a lot more than that to bring about the transformation of a rundown park.

The couple, both retired police officers, are leading lights in the Friends of Sandall Park in Wheatley Hills.

Ten years ago it was a haven for drug users and drunks who hid in bushes and went on vandalism sprees. But Don’s police experience helped the Friends launch a crime reduction strategy which saw the removal of almost 300 trees which provided cover.

“As soon as we got rid of the trees it opened the park up and meant there was nowhere for bandits to hide,” he said. “That reduced nearly all the crime.”

Since then Friends regulars have obtained £160,000 in grants for new paths, play areas and fitness trails.

Sandra said: “When we went to the first meeting we said ‘don’t volunteer’ - now it feels like a full-time job! It’s nice to be recognised.”

IT’S been a heartbreaking few years for David Cryer but he has maintained great dignity throughout.

Almost five years have passed since he got the call which changed his life - his son Matthew, 17, had died in Greece.

David, of Birley, was told by Greek police that Matthew, from Killamarsh, had died through heavy drinking. In fact he had been unlawfully killed by nightclub bouncers who kicked and punched him down a flight of stairs.

Ever since David, 48 tomorrow, has campaigned to get justice. But there have been many setbacks which mean Matthew’s killers are still at large.

“I have to confess there have been times I’ve become angry and thought how I could get revenge,” said David. “But violence was never Matthew’s way and he would not have wanted that.”

Backed by The Star David has vowed to continue his campaign - and that alone makes him a true star.

INSPIRATIONAL Jack Butt has gone to great lengths after a traumatic 2012 for him and his family.

The 12-year-old’s world was torn apart in summer when medics discovered a tumour on his brain - and he underwent 15-hour surgery in which he ‘died’ on the operating table.

But while Jack is not out of the woods yet, the sports-mad youngster is determined to turn his diagnosis into a positive.

“He has thrown himself into fundraising for Sheffield Children’s Hospital,” said mum Mandy. “It has given us all something to focus on.”

Sheffield United fan Jack, who will be mascot for the Blades’ Boxing Day game, raised £10,000 by swimming 50 lengths. He has plans for a fancy dress footie match in the new year.

Mandy, from West Stockwith, added: “It is wonderful he’s been recognised but he doesn’t do things for recognition. He just wants to give something back.”

LITTLE Miss Courage Olivia Sagar had a heartbreaking year before The Star gave her something to smile about - a meeting with her pop idols JLS.

The schoolgirl, who has undergone years of ops for a rare bowel condition, lost dad Paul, 36, this summer to a sudden heart attack.

He was her rock, and she was depending on him to share her 11th birthday in October.

But Olivia, of Lang Crescent, Burton Grange, Barnsley, still manages a smile - and for that she is a Star of The Star.

This year we organised for her to get hugs from pop superstars JLS during their visit to Sheffield. And we had another festive treat for her this week - a Christmas card signed by the band.

Olivia said: “I’ve had a bad year but one thing that makes me smile is listening to JLS. You think of the good times you’ve had, not the bad ones.”

VIDEO: See Olivia opening her JLS Christmas card at

SOLDIER Ben Parkinson is a symbol of hope - the living proof of just show how strong in body and spirit a man can be.

The Lance Bombadier lost both legs, broke his back, and suffered brain injuries in a blast in Afghanistan in 2006.

But Ben, now 28, became the first man to survive such devastating injuries, and this summer walked with the Olympic torch on its nationwide relay.

And he owes everything to one woman... his mum, Diane Dernie, 58.

She poured her strength into her adored son, gave up her job to look after him, and successfully took on the MoD, gaining better compensation and treatment not just for Ben but for all injured war veterans.

She now works to help other servicemen as patron of Yorkshire Armed Forces charity The Forgotten Heroes.

Diane accepted her nomination with typical modesty.

“It’s brilliant, but I don’t feel I’ve done anything,” she said. “Initially everything we did was for Ben. Now it’s about every injured serviceperson. It’s a privilege to help them.”

TRAGEDY-hit Sarah and James O’Mara are real stars after turning grief into a charity cause - raising £20,000 to help save lives.

The couple, both 31, were mourning the death of Sarah’s 25-year-old brother Robert Cooper, of Barugh Green, Barnsley, who died from a heart condition he didn’t even know he had.

He went to work fit and healthy, but collapsed and died from a condition which thickens the heart’s muscle tissue.

His family launched The CMA Robert Cooper tribute fund, to raise funds for the Cardiomyopathy Association.

Sarah and James organised a fundraising night to celebrate Robert’s life. It raised around £9,000, and follow-up events take this year’s total to around £20,000.

Sarah, of Barugh Lane, said: “The recognition is a reward for all Robert’s friends. Everyone needs to give themselves a big pat on the back.

“We’re going to do more next year. We want Robert’s name to live on. It’s a curable disease if people know about it.”

VIDEO: Watch our video chat with Sarah and James at

MUM-OF-TWO Danielle Elliot is a Star of The Star after a harrowing year and campaigning for domestic violence victims.

Danielle waived her right to anonymity to tell her personal story of rape and domestic abuse, to encourage other victims to report their attackers.

The Sheffield mum spoke out after ex-partner Michael Jack Dennett, 24, was jailed for 10-and-a-half years in October for assaulting and sexually attacking her. Danielle gave a frank and honest account of her horrific experiences.

This year the 31-year-old mum is looking forward to spending Christmas with her two daughters.

But last year it was a very different story.

Both her daughters, terrified of Dennett, were too afraid to spend the day with their mum, and he even banned Danielle from buying them gifts.

She said: “I’m looking forward to spending this Christmas at home with my girls. I’ll be with my family, and he’s behind bars.

“It’s been a tough year but it’s so nice to be a ‘star’ - I’ve never been nominated for anything before.”

AGED 90 Kathleen Roberts has led the campaign to gain recognition for South Yorkshire’s Women of Steel.

She sparked the now international campaign by contacting The Star - and since then has taken the appeal to Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and the Ministry of Defence.

Kathleen was determined to draw attention to the thousands of feisty women who made bullets, bombs, ships and tanks during the wars.

Most worked long hours in terrible conditions and, when fighting ended and the men returned, the women were sacked with no notice.

Although Kathleen is first to admit most Women of Steel died before receiving thanks, families across the country have joined the campaign, touched by memories of late mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts.

She is now a major player in fundraising for a Women of Steel statue outside Sheffield City Hall.

Kathleen said: “This is for all the Women of Steel - we were all stars although there can’t be many of us left.”