An animal rescue pioneer, a mental health nurse, a dance instructor, an entrepreneur and a six-foot drag queen were the eclectic first entrants into the Dorset Hall of Fame, which got off to an emotional launch on 18th October.
Designed to honour the unsung heroes that make Dorset such a special place to live, the Dorset Hall of Fame, launched by Heart 102.3 and sponsored by Teachers Building Society, revealed inspirational stories from communities across the county.
Set to become a glittering fixture on the Dorset calendar, the inaugural black tie event at the Pavilion Ballroom in Bournemouth saw more than 150 people witness which of several hundred nominees had been selected for the Dorset Hall of Fame.
The first person inducted was Emer Kelly, a Mental Health worker at Kings Park Hospital in Bournemouth, she reacted with complete surprise, saying “Mental Health work doesn’t normally get recognised in this way, so this is a complete honour, not only for me, but everyone working in Mental Health in Dorset.”
Up next was Nikila Newman, a dance teacher from Poole who started up a school running a few classes on the Turlyn Moor estate and is now working seven days a week with 200 people attending each week. Nikila has been credited with turning around many lives on the estate and was given a standing ovation on the night, as she collected her award from Paralmypic Gold Medalist, Helena Lucas.
The third person inducted was the hugely popular, incredibly entertaining Dame Kitty who had the audience in stitches, taking over the show in her indomitable style. In a speech lasting a full fifteen minutes, Kitty said she was delighted to be given the award and would look to do even more work for her charity Kitty Wishes in the future.
Fourth was the founder of Sunseeker, Robert Braithwaite CBE. A man who has employed thousands in the county and has put Dorset on the map globally with his luxury motor yachts, Robert said “I’m so delighted to receive this award and to stand up here with the four other amazing members of the Dorset Hall of Fame, I feel really humbled tonight.”
The last award of the night was the most emotional and was awarded posthumously to Jim Cronin MBE. The award was collected by his wife Dr Alison Cronin, who confessed to shedding a few tears watching the video footage of Jim’s friends and colleagues before collecting the award on his behalf.
The evening ended with the five winners standing shoulder to shoulder on stage, receiving a richly deserved standing ovation from the crowd.
Heart 102.3 Programme Controller Simon Monk said: “After 18 months of planning, we’re so pleased the vision we had all those months ago came to fruition in a fantastic evening. We wanted it to be all about five fantastic stories about five fantastic people and that’s exactly what we got.”
James Bawa, Chief Executive at Teachers Building Society added, "The whole team at Teachers Building Society is very proud to sponsor the Dorset Hall of Fame and help pay tribute to the people going the extra mile for the community and making Dorset an even better place for all of us. The five winners honoured tonight are shining examples of people whose passion and compassion have improved the lives of others. They haven’t sought recognition, but they absolutely deserve it.”
You can view a video of the big night here.