COMMUNITY AWARDS: Due praise to our Local Heroes

S12470371X Emma Johnston from Billingshurst was praised as last year's Local Hero, recognising her bravery and inspiring character. Photo by Steve Cobb
S12470371X Emma Johnston from Billingshurst was praised as last year's Local Hero, recognising her bravery and inspiring character. Photo by Steve Cobb

The County Times Community Local Hero Award gives due recognition to remarkable individuals, often who have been spurred by most difficult life events, and their extraordinary achievements.

Last year’s winner illustrated the nature of the award with an emotional account of her baby’s death.

Emma Johnston from Billingshurst was praised as last year’s Local Hero, recognising her bravery and inspiring character.

The Award followed her battle with depression and traumatic stress when she lost her little boy Morgan having given birth to him prematurely.

Emma became a true inspiration for her sister Claire who nominated her, after she completed a gruelling 40km hike - raising £2,600 for Action Medical Research; lobbied MPs about the importance of premature care; and volunteered for organisations like Bliss and TAMBA, helping others to overcome tragic deaths.

Action Medical Research, founded in 1952, have spent more than £100m on medical research to help the hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled children in the UK.

She said today (Thursday September 5): “It meant a lot because I didn’t realise that people were seeing me as something that I wasn’t seeing myself as.

“I felt the award wasn’t just for me, it was for the people who supported me through a very difficult time - my dad, my sister and my mum, and the fantastic charities.”

She added: “People in my situation, I don’t think we can get through what we do without them and the support that they offer.

“They put me in touch with another mum that had been through the same things which was a huge things for me.”

Emma is now in the process of setting up a Billingshurst support group for parents who have lost a child.

She said: “It’s so we can come together on how we celebrate a birthday and small things that actually mean a huge amount.

“I’m four years along, I’ve gone through birthdays and things, so I just want to share the way that I get through those key days.”

Sarah Stevenson, Action Medical Research Community Fundraising Manager for the South East and London, said: “We are so grateful to Local Hero Emma. She raised vital funds for Action Medical Research by plodding through the night and day along the south downs way, over 40 gruelling miles as part of our PLOD event.

“We’d like to say thank you once again for her support as we continue to find and fund the very best medical research to help save and change children’s lives.”

Bliss is a UK charity working to provide the best possible care and support for all premature and sick babies and their families.

A spokesperson for Bliss said yesterday: “Bliss is really grateful to Emma for all her hard work volunteering and fundraising for us. Last year Emma met with Mr Francis Maude MP to raise the importance of one to one care for tiny babies in neonatal intensive care.”

This year Emma is running the Great South Run for Bliss.

The Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA) is the only UK wide organisation that directly helps parents and professionals to meet the unique challenges that multiple birth families face.

If you would like to get in touch with Emma about her support group, email her on emma_jj@live.com