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Full list of finalists revealed for Inspiring Abereenshire awards

By David Porter

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Inspiring Aberdeenshire awards will be presented in September.
Inspiring Aberdeenshire awards will be presented in September.

Some incredible Aberdeenshire residents and groups have been selected as finalists for this year Inspiring Aberdeenshire awards.

The awards are run by Aberdeenshire Council, held once a year to celebrate and showcase the people and groups working hard in their communities to make life better for us all.

They are often people who have been volunteering for many years but receive very little other recognition.

This year there will be awards in eight categories ranging from cultural champions, green champions and those who dedicate their time to caring for others, alongside local heroes and the Inspiring Aberdeenshire Lifetime Achievement award.

The awards will be handed out in a live ceremony in September – hosted by Provost of Aberdeenshire Judy Whyte.

She said: “It never fails to amaze me that year after year we hear of more people being nominated, often people who have flown under the radar for a long time, but who dedicate their time to others.

"They really demonstrate the best of Aberdeenshire, that approach where true community spirit is reflected in the role we play for each other and the way we step up to support a need in our community. I think we can all learn a lot from our truly inspiring finalists."

Inspiring Aberdeenshire 2022
Inspiring Aberdeenshire 2022

Aberdeenshire’s Future

Aby Catto, Turriff - There is probably not time to list all the amazing things Aby Catto has done in her six years at Turriff Academy.

Known to all as a kind, thoughtful and caring individual she is empowered by helping others achieve success. She is a true campaigner for the underdog and motivates even the least confident to have a go. Her 'can do' approach to life is a breath of fresh air and even when she is facing her own challenges, she always looks to make life better for others.

She was Turriff United Youth U16’s Girls Team captain and Player of the year 22/23, she volunteers in the community, she supported after school clubs, particularly, Hockey, Girls Football and led several training sessions. Aby also supported the enhanced transition for some of the most vulnerable kids moving from P7 to S1, organised charity events and was house captain.

Now that Aby moves away from the Academy, her future looks incredibly bright, but it is fair to say that she will be missed by everyone in the school and beyond.

Vadym Kapliuk, Mintlaw - Vadym Kapliuk joined Mintlaw Academy last year, having come to Scotland from Ukraine. In his previous school he had been a pupil leader and very proactive in supporting his community / peers. It would be fair to say that he continued this when he arrived at Mintlaw. Very quickly he established himself as a popular member of the school community and could often be seen "high fiving" students, was quick to share how much he loved the school, telling everyone who asked that it was an "amazing" place. Mintlaw Academy's colours are blue and yellow and he often joked they had adopted his!

Among his accolades he was made Deputy Head Boy, started an online newspaper, was successful in his prelim exams and was well known to all in the school as a source of positivity and optimism.

When the nominations came in for this award, he was in Poland, having agreed to travel to be on an interview panel to secure a US Visitor's Visa in order to visit his girlfriend, also Ukrainian, who lives with her family in New York.

The lengths Vadym goes to for others is extraordinary and he is an asset to the Ukrainian community, to Mintlaw and he will be to wherever his life takes him next.

Musical Monymusketeers, Monymusk - Monymusk Primary have a well-established school choir with kids from all ages taking part. Back in March they were due to be part of a competition in Aberdeen.

The kids had supported the elderly father of the Head Teacher for a number of years, for example writing Christmas card labels for him when they heard his writing was deteriorating and calling him regularly with update on how their days were going. They were keen he was able to come see them perform, but his health would have made that difficult.

And so, they launched ‘Operation Rainbow Surprise’. On the way to the competition, they stopped at his house and performed to him in his front garden, a plan they unanimously agreed on just to make his dreams come true. When they started to perform there was not a dry eye in the house, even the bus driver was overcome with emotion. The sight of 30 kids silently arranging themselves in his garden and then singing and dancing their hearts out when he opened the curtains was almost too much.

Their nomination for this award is to recognise that these young people encompass every value and belief that the awards stand for and despite this being a one-off example, they regularly go above and beyond to support their local and wider community.

Inspirational Volunteer

Linsey Singers, Inverurie - Linsey is the cofounder of LATNEM - a mental health support group for mums and people giving birth. She works at a demanding job, is an amazing mum herself, a great friend but someone who also finds time, passion and compassion to support service users. Linsey is passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding maternal mental ill health and pushing for effective prevention, detection and treatment of perinatal mental illness.

From peer supporting at meetings to gruelling hours on the accounts and applying for funding she rises to every challenge always looking for way to do more.

Linsey has a wonderful listening ear as a mentor, helping mums navigate services and find their own inner strengths. Her hard work and dedication have been fundamental to LATNEMs continued success.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say she has saved lives. “Thank you for keeping me alive” is just one of many positive things that service users have said about her. Linsey is one in a million.

Angie Mutch, Stonehaven - These awards show us that many amazing people volunteer and give up their own time to support their communities, and Angie is an example of how one person can use their voice to advocate for others.

She is a public representative within the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership and has spent five years providing advice and feedback, advocating for community views, communicating with communities and making sure the voice of the people of Aberdeenshire is heard. Her voluntary roles require hard work and dedication, and she invests a huge amount of her own time so she can provide an informed and valuable contribution across her roles.

The courage and determination shown in her commitment to this work whilst coping with her own personal challenging circumstances is an inspiration. She brings her lived experience to the partnership and is invaluable to making sure services are shaped and delivered to meet the needs of users and the unpaid carers that support them.

Angie is one of those people who makes the people she meets want to be better, a true inspiration.

Russ Crichton, Banchory - Russ is known in Banchory as 'Mr Skatepark' having spent much of the last six years dedicating himself to the creation the new facility for the town. He is an outstanding example of what can be achieved with passion, drive and commitment and has earned the respect of the young people involved in the skatepark project and indeed of the whole community of Banchory.

The focus of this nomination is around the impact he has had on the young people involved, giving them respect and the right to have their views included and considered. He has provided explanations and kept them up to date with progress and tempered frustration when progress was not being made. He gave young people reasons to stay engaged with the project by providing diverse activities for them to take part in alongside the necessary attendance at community and planning events. He guided young people on how to behave at these events to get the best outcome.

He has been instrumental in helping young people see that they are valued and that they can contribute to society. He encouraged them to believe that anything is possible when young people are supported to achieve their potential.

Heart of Aberdeenshire Caring Award

Garth Entwistle, Udny - Garth Entwistle has selflessly supported so many groups and organisations in the Udny community throughout the past three decades.

Garth was chair of the management committee of the Dr Spence Memorial Hall in Udny Green and was instrumental in securing the tens of thousands of pounds required to renovate and improve this invaluable community space. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Udny Community Trust whose wind turbine generates funds for community causes. Garth was leader of the Boys Brigade for 25 years and generations of young people in the area benefited from involvement in this organisation. Garth was an office bearer in the Udny community council. He was an elder and long-standing treasurer of Udny and Pitmedden church.

He cares. He demonstrates that through energy, enthusiasm, commitment and zeal to get initiatives off the ground and then maintain them.

Fiona Weir, Fraserburgh - Fiona has been nominated because of her outstanding contributions to mental health awareness and support through the charity ‘Shirley's Space’.

As one of the founders and driving force behind the charity, Fiona has dedicated herself to improving the lives of those who are struggling with mental health issues. She has created a welcoming and supportive environment that offers a range of services, including counselling, group therapy, and peer support. Fiona's tireless efforts have had a profound impact on the lives of many individuals who have found solace and support through her charity. Her passion, dedication, and commitment to the cause of mental health have been an inspiration to all who have worked with her.

Fiona has also been an active advocate for mental health awareness in the wider community. She has worked with local schools, businesses, and organisations to promote mental health education and resources, reaching out to those who may be suffering in silence.

Fiona's impact on the Aberdeenshire community has been immeasurable, and her contributions to mental health advocacy and support have been truly inspiring.

Kaydin Simpson, Peterhead - Kaydin is a pupil at Dales Park Primary in Peterhead.

Last Christmas he saw an advert which highlighted that there were children that would not get presents at Christmas time. This was enough to make the kind-hearted Kaydin want to use his pocket money to buy presents for these children. When his dad posted on Facebook, the local community was inspired by Kaydin and they also stepped up. He started a local movement which resulted in donations of Christmas presents and money for vulnerable children which began to pour into the school and to his family. A Go-fund-me page was created and he worked with the Bare Necessities charity to help collect donations and deliver them. His thoughtfulness and generosity touched so many, and this in turn helped a local charity make Christmas a bit more special for so many vulnerable families.

The Cultural Award

Jackie Ross and Doric Books group, Lumphanan - Doric Books is a community interest company publishing books solely in Doric. So far, they have produced six picture books aimed at children which can be found in over thirty shops across the North east as well as on their website. They also carry out community engagement activities including Doric Rhyme Time for Bairns Doric Blethers in Care Homes and Community Groups Doric Story Telling and workshops in schools. They have given numerous talks to Rotary Clubs, WRIs etc and recently, a story telling session to the Buchan Heritage Society. Their aim is to promote and increase the uptake of the Doric in speaking, writing and reading.

Jackie is a retired teacher who has taken her passion to the Doric Books world, and she dedicated her time to raising the profile of Doric in schools and in communities. Thanks to Jackie this group continues to help children and young people retain an important connection to their linguistic heritage.

Pitnamoon, Laurencekirk - These four boys from Mearns Academy started a band during lockdown called Pitnamoon. Through their performances they have brought the community together, supporting them at their gigs and listening to their songs online. They singlehandedly formed the group through their love of music and performing. They have sought out opportunities such as "on the road" where they toured the north of Scotland and were one of the only groups in the tour to host a sell-out gig in their local area (Aberdeen tunnels).

They have motivated and inspired others to follow their dreams, try out the musical arts and support their local friends.

These boys are determined and passionate about what they do and have an exciting future ahead of them.

Stonehaven Fireballs Committee, Stonehaven - The Fireballs ceremony is an annual event which attracts crowds of up to 10,000 each year from around the world. The parade which involves around flaming balls of fire being swung then thrown into the Harbour has to be seen to be believed but brings with it a LOT of organisation and planning.

A group of volunteers organise this event every year and have dealt with the ever-growing demands placed on them to keep the event both spectacular and safe. Each year they rise to the challenge and go above and beyond to make sure this hugely loved event for both locals and visitors goes ahead each year.

It involves everything from safety event plans to road closures to arranging RNLI support to security and marshalling to crowd management to marketing and much more.

They do whatever it takes to make sure that this centuries old tradition, designed to ward off evil spirits at in the New Year, becomes a reality.

Beautiful Aberdeenshire Environmental Award

Inverurie Environmental Improvement Group, Inverurie - The Inverurie Environmental Improvement Group is a non-profit organisation stablished in 2003 with a mission to improve the local environment and enhance the quality of life for the community.

They have been instrumental in promoting environmental awareness and sustainability in Inverurie through various initiatives and projects. The group works in partnership with local businesses, schools, organisations, and individuals to drive positive change in the community. The group has transformed neglected areas into vibrant, thriving spaces that promote biodiversity, provide opportunities for community engagement, and improve the appeal of the town.

Through their commitment to environmental sustainability and community engagement, they have created a lasting legacy that will benefit the town for years to come.

Wullie Matthew, Udny- Wullie has been working on the grounds within The Medan Centre (Udny Community Trust Community Hub) since 2020.

Back when he started, the grounds left a lot to be desired - overgrown and strewn with rubbish. It is now transformed into a beautiful green space thanks to Wullie. He makes everyone passing by or coming into the centre to feel welcome. He shares the produce. He shares the glut of vegetables he grows with the Community Cafe and with passersby. He is on hand for gardening advice and information, he gives everyone who passes attention and time. He looks after the grounds, he maintains the grounds, he does all the planting and weeding. He engages with local children and ran a sunflower competition last year.

Nothing is ever a problem and thanks to him this is an area to be proud of.

Friends of the Den, Turriff - Friends of the Den have been working with the Council to establish a large biodiversity area within the Den area in Turriff.

They have involved the local Primary School pupils, local youth organisations and other voluntary groups to introduce native wild flowers to enhance several biodiversity areas, turning them into beautiful areas of colour. They have also planted many new trees, and joined the Queens Green Canopy by planting new fruit trees in her memory.

Friends of the Den have welcomed hundreds of volunteers, who are all keen to improve not only the look of the area, but also to provide a biodiversity area for local wildlife, including bees. Not only do they source plants, wildflower plugs, bulbs, trees etc, they also teach and encourage the younger generations to take pride in their community.

Local Hero Courage Award

Mario Chiru, Balmedie - Mario has run the local shop and post office in Balmedie since 2014.

Throughout, he has been an unfailingly kind and generous member of the community. He arranged for home deliveries during the covid lockdowns and frequently went out of his way to find items the big supermarkets were struggling to provide. His shop continues to be vital in supporting the community, especially vulnerable members of the community and he still arranges deliveries for those customers who struggle to get out and about.

He said "I have treated people like I wanted to be treated. I have lived in different communities before, but this is my community. This community cared about me, this community shared my pain, shared my joy, and is always there for me. In other words, this is not my community, this is my family."

Amanda Wilson, Fettercairn - If you are looking for a hero in the face of adversity, look no further than Amanda Wilson.

2019 was, on my many levels, a hard time for her. Let down, badly treated, and left struggling with her mental health. Things got very dark.

But Amanda turned that around. Soon she started crafting again, got back into working to establish a food bank where she lives and is currently involved with the South Aberdeenshire and Mearns Mums in Business group where she provides advice and mentoring.

She is motivated by helping people in their time of need.

It takes extraordinary courage to come back from hard times and to use that to benefit other people around you.

Tyrone Devlin, Mintlaw - Tyrone is a very inspirational young man who has overcome all sorts of difficulties and adversities throughout his life.

He was described by the nominator as “one of the most kind and caring young people I have ever come across”. Fiercely loyal to all his peers and to staff across the school and looks out for everyone emotionally. He helps out in his community, putting up decorations in the care home at Christmas or creating an enterprise project, and gets stuck in helping the school janitors with whatever the school day throws at them. All of this in spite of the great challenges and setbacks he has encountered throughout his life. He understands his life journey and sees it as his strength. It is the way he has worked selflessly for others in the face of some significant adversity that make him a hero.

Nomination for this award will hopefully give Tyrone the recognition he truly deserves for being such an inspirational young man.

Community Spirit

Emma Seivwright, Ellon - Emma is a mum of three and works full time at Home Start North East Aberdeenshire. She juggles work and home life along with being a leader for Girl Guides in Ellon.

Amongst all of that, she manages to devote her time to Home Start - always looking for ways to raise money and run events. She has been at the centre of two toddler groups in Peterhead and Crimond, where parents of the community are invited to the group, completely free, to interact and play with children and develop their skills.

She runs workshops for the local community to raise awareness of cooking healthy, budgeting, meal prepping.

Emma is a vital part of Home Start. In fact, she is its heart and an asset to the charity and local community.

The Gordon Schools Care Group, Huntly - This group is in their second year of working closely and making links with the local community. It was set up to give a voice to Care Experienced Young People.

The Care Group have worked very closely with Deveron Projects in Huntly and attended the local care home in Huntly to sing carols at Christmas time, taking time to speak to the residents and learn about their time in Huntly and Aberdeenshire.

It is their exhibitions for which they may be most known. They work to organise, create and present photography, film and sound exhibitions that have contained content from all around Aberdeenshire the natural beauty the area offers. The most recent exhibition was presented in the John Swan Atrium at School and was well attended by the public, family and friends. This exhibition contained images, video and sounds from Slains Castle, local beaches and even recordings of them speaking. The Care Group continue to work closely with the community and have plans to create another exhibition in future and hope to showcase from an even bigger scale.

Jane Craigie, Huntly - Jane lives in rural Aberdeenshire and was concerned about the loss of young people from our local rural communities. She started the Rural Youth Project in 2018 to encourage young people aged 18-30 to build their leadership, activism and enterprise skills, with the aim of encouraging them to move back to, move to, or remain in rural areas.

Fuelled by knowing that when young people leave rural areas, the ideas, energy and services also start to go. - the project has supported many young people and including local communities to listen and involve their young people. Jane including an Ideas Hack in Huntly last year. This involved the local Huntly Development Trust, Gordon Schools, Deveron Projects and the local youth development officer. As a result of this activity, the James Hutton Institute plans to focus on Huntly as one of five areas in Scotland that will be a 'Living Lab' for three-years of in-depth research into community challenges, activities and dynamics.

Jane has supported and connected with well over 1,000 young people and invested her own time and money into the initiative.

Sandy Gavrock, Peterhead - For many years, Sandy has always helped others.

He has raised money, delivered food parcels, chatted with isolated people, and helped with anything required. He has helped Ukrainian refugees, and international fishermen.

Three years ago Sandy saw a need for more support for men to address mental health issues. He started up a support group that grew rapidly. He now runs Men United and has supported hundreds of men locally. Thanks to his interventions, he has saved many lives. He is always at the end of a phone for people in need.

To top it off he is also a volunteer lifeboat chaplain and lifeboat crew with RNLI in Peterhead. Thank you, Sandy, for everything you do.

Inspiring Aberdeenshire Lifetime Achievement Award

Craig Trail, Fraserburgh - Craig is an exceptionally selfless and ambitious person, who has been the driving force behind the advancement and expansion of Fraserburgh Sea Cadets over the last 12 years. He was a sea cadet himself as a child and returned as a volunteer in 2009.

He has propelled the Cadets from temporary closure to a band of 50, a committee of 6 and a volunteer base of more than 20. They were operating from a single run-down building and now own a harbour-based station and a new headquarters. An impressive series of achievements in only 9 years.

Craig does all of what he does for the benefit of the cadets. He is motivated by the young people, the staff, the committee and the volunteers. He does it to see the joy on everyone’s face.

For the time and effort, he puts into the unit, the community is unendingly grateful.

Ken Fairweather, Luthermuir - Ken was one of the first ever volunteers for the Mearns and Coastal Healthy Living Network. He has dedicated over 20 years of his life to supporting the health and wellbeing of the over 50's in Kincardine and Mearns.

The group serves some 200 older people per week through a variety of services, groups and activities to combat loneliness and isolation, financial hardship and exclusions. At the age of 87, Ken is still volunteering as a driver taking rurally and socially isolated clients to and from hospital, GP and other appointments benefitting wellbeing.

Ken is a fabulous example of what makes a community, a community. His seemingly tireless dedication sets a shining example of what can be done. He is proof of the value that people of all ages can make to a community and long may his stellar work continue.

Kenny Thomson, Kintore - Kenny Thomson has been a stalwart of Kintore community for many years.

He started with the Community Council around 2007, when he began his youth work and remained as an active member until recently. He was the Chair from 2009 until 2012 and took on other office bearer roles during his time as a Community Councillor. Whilst on the Community Council he was involved in the running of the summer festival, fireworks, floral displays, establishing local facilities for young people, and back in 2016 when Storm Frank hit Aberdeenshire he was instrumental in helping residents then seeking improvements to the flood defences for Kintore.

The growth and development of Kintore over the time Kenny was involved was significant. His commitment to Kintore and its people over a significant number of years is worth of recognition and all our thanks.

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