Friday, 28 November 2014

Pride of Henshaws Ball 2014

This year's Pride of Henshaws Ball took place on Saturday, 22nd November at The Marriott Victoria & Albert Hotel in Manchester. This is the second Ball to date, returning after last year's success, celebrating the achievements and hard work of the inspirational service users and volunteers of Henshaws Society for Blind People.

The event was the finale to the Bright for Sight campaign, helping to raise awareness and much-needed funds for Henshaws, to support people living with sight loss and other disabilities. Mark Edwardson, TV news presenter and journalist for BBC North West Tonight, hosted the Ball which included speeches from Nick Marr, Chief Executive at Henshaws, and Andrew Rose, Trustee Board member, as well as a raffle, auction, disco and three-course meal.

The award categories were expanded this year with 4 awards in total; the Technical Star Award, the No Fear Award, the Volunteer of the Year Award and the Gillian Lawrence Award - the main award of the evening named after a long-standing Chairman and Trustee of Henshaws, who sadly passed away in 2012.

I was notified previous to the event that I had been nominated in some of the categories, and was told in the week running up to the Ball that I was a finalist, but couldn't be told which category for and whether I was a winner until the night of the event. I never imagined that the category would, in fact, be the Gillian Lawrence Award!

Bewildered and suddenly nervous, I was gobsmacked to learn that I was in the event programme and that myself and another service user had made it so far. Just to be told that I was a nominee, and then a finalist, was achievement enough for me - but to have my name called out when the awards were presented was just incredible!

I immediately felt the tears coming as it was just such an overwhelmingly emotional moment to be presented the award by Gillian's daughter, Sarah, and to have everyone clapping and cheering for me. I couldn't stop hugging everyone who congratulated me! It truly was, and still is, an immense honour to have won the award for overcoming all of my personal obstacles and for being a positive role model.

It has been an amazing journey over the past year and a half since I first discovered Henshaws at the Manchester Eye Hospital and started the Living With Sight Loss course in June 2013. From being so insecure and self-depricating to now being hugely confident, optimistic and more independent than ever, it has been a transformation that has surpassed all of my expectations!

I have undertaken Braille, Arts & Crafts, Relaxation and Employability courses, learned kitchen and mobility skills over a 9 month period with re-ablement officers, have given speeches and been involved with some fantastic fundraising events and, since the start of September, now have a work placement with the fundraising and marketing team; helping to promote the life-changing work that Henshaws does for so many other people like me.

I have been through the whole cycle of the Pathway to Independence and wish I could put into words how grateful I am to the staff, volunteers and fellow service users of Henshaws for their continued support!