DJ CHRIS EVANS stunned a finalist of The Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards by inviting him on to his radio show – then pledging on air to give £25,000 to the man’s charity.
Musician Ben Slack, 29, set up The Swan Song Project three years ago after his gran died. It aims to help those near death, and their relatives, to create songs for their families to treasure.
Ben was a runner-up in our Unsung Hero category at Tuesday’s awards and Virgin Radio host Chris was so touched by his story, he invited him on his show.
Ben told The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky: “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to give people a chance to write a song at the end of their life and see what they’d say — then record them and people keep it on CD.”
These songs are often then played at funerals, which Ben attends, and he told Chris the charity had received £10,000 of Lottery money but he added: “Any support is appreciated . . . we’re a very small charity.”
Ben was then speechless as Chris announced: “OK, how about we give you £25,000? That’s a done deal.”
Ben said afterwards: “It feels surreal but amazing. Chris came up to me after the awards and invited me on his show the next day. But I never expected this. I want to thank Chris and The Sun for all they have done for me and the charity.”
Ben, from Leeds, was nominated for our Unsung Hero award by Rebecca Scott-Davis, 17, for helping her write a song about her late gran.
In an emotional moment, Chris played on air the song they recorded. Chris also shared a story about his late mum, Minnie Beardsall, who died last year aged 92, and worked as a nurse.
He said: “When Mum was having end-of-life care, it was all about the music. We got Bing Crosby on and she was in a world of safety and comfort.”
Doctor turned comedy writer Adam Kay, author of bestseller This Is Going To Hurt, was also on Chris’s show after attending the awards — and told Ben: “Projects like yours are absolutely humbling.”
Chris dedicated his show to our awards — which Sun columnist Lorraine Kelly hosted.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, TV star Christine Lampard, Strictly head judge Shirley Ballas and Sarah, Duchess of York, all gave out awards.
Chris said of the event: “It should go stellar. It’s just so inspirational. It’s so inspiring to meet and be around these people. There were three nominations per category, which means two did not win. But nobody minded.
“Every winner said, ‘I don’t deserve it’. But they do.”
Chris’s donation will come from proceeds of his annual summer CarFest — a music-and-motoring charity festival in Cheshire and Hampshire.
It currently donates all profit to children’s charities but may now broaden its scope. Chris said: “I want to change it to CareFest.”
He added they had given away £2.25million so far this year but had another £250,000 to allocate by next week — and he will reveal his plans on a future show.
Also appearing on his show was the winner of our Best Midwife award, Jane Parke, 55, from the Royal Cornwall Hospital, who was nominated by mum Jennie Powell for helping her give birth to Britain’s youngest surviving premature twins.
Liz Monaghan, winner of our Best Nurse award, was on air with Chris, too.
Liz, 53, who specialises in palliative and end-of-life care at the Florence Nightingale Hospice, at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Bucks, told
listeners about the Purple Rose initiative which aims to improve care for patients, and their loved ones, during the last days of life.
Top marks from Strictly Shirley for ‘miracle workers’ of NHS
TELLY star Shirley Ballas praised our Mental Health Hero award nominees for raising awareness of an issue close to her heart.
The Strictly Come Dancing judge lost her brother David Rich 16 years ago when he took his own life, aged 44. He had been suffering from depression.
Shirley, 59, now works closely with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), which works to reduce the suicide rate among young men. Suicide is the biggest killer of British men aged under 45 and Shirley wants to share her brother’s story to help more people understand the severity of the problem.
She said: “We didn’t know so much about depression back then and my brother was too proud to get help.”
Shirley fears the male mental health epidemic may be even bigger than is commonly accepted, as men struggle more than women to be open about their feelings. She said: “Sometimes it is hard for a man to show his emotions. They feel they have to be ‘strong’.”
David was something of a father figure to Shirley. After his death, she helped raise his daughter Mary, who now works for the NHS.
Shirley said: “Mary was ten when he died. She wanted to work for the NHS to help people. She’s worked for it ever since she left school. Like every one of us in Britain, I owe so much to the NHS and I am delighted The Sun has chosen to celebrate the wonderful people who work there and make miracles happen every single day.”
Fergie vows to become fixture at our awards
OUR Young Hero award went to five-year-old Ronnie Musselwhite, who donated bone marrow to his sister Ebonie, who sadly passed away at the age of eight.
And the brave lad, from Crawley, West Sussex, sat for a picture with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, on what was the former royal’s first appearance at our ceremony.
She presented the Christina Newbury Memorial Award to the Natasha Ednan-Laperouse Foundation and vowed to attend our bash “every year” in future.
She mingled with guests, shared a joke with the PM and posed for a selfie with guest Giselle Moor, 26.
Giselle, from South London, was left paralysed by a motorbike accident and nominated the winner of our Best Health Charity gong, the Matt Hampson Foundation.
Lorraine hails stylish Leia as pioneering team land top gong
AWARDS host Lorraine Kelly found herself upstaged in the glamour stakes by eight-year-old Leia Armitage.
Little Leia’s sparkly outfit drew admiring glances from guests and, in particular, Sun columnist Lorraine.
The telly star told Leia she looked “lovely” as the youngster took to the stage with the medics who carried out her pioneering brain surgery. Leia, from Dagenham, East London, was born with a rare form of deafness and was never expected to be able to speak. But thanks to a team from Guy’s and St Thomas’ London Auditory Brainstem Implant Service, she now can.
The team won our Groundbreaking Pioneer or Discovery award, sponsored by Pfizer. They were nominated by her parents, Bob and Alison Armitage, who attended the awards with Leia and three of the team who helped her – surgeon Professor Shakeel Saeed, lead clinical scientist
Katherine Wilson and principal speech and language therapist Sandra Driver. The award was presented by Pfizer’s Dr Berkeley Phillips, who said: “These awards are important overall because all the nominees work for the NHS. It is a truly inspirational organisation and one we have partnered with over many years, together striving towards a common goal – improving patients’ lives.”
Boris champions teen’s campaign to raise mental health awareness
BORIS JOHNSON was so impressed by the teenage winner of our Mental Health Hero award, he will personally champion his campaign work.
Ben West, 19, lost his brother Sam, 15, to suicide last year and since then has worked to raise awareness of mental health. His Project Walk
To Talk has raised £15,000 for mental health charities, and a foundation has been set up in Sam’s name. The Prime Minister was at our awards night to present the Ultimate Lifesaver gong, and afterwards requested a private meeting with Ben to discuss how he could help.
Ben, who received his award from Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said: “I chatted to him about the Project Walk To Talk and our petition to get mental-health first aid taught in schools.”
Ben, from Staplehurst, Kent, wants to make mental-health first aid a compulsory part of teacher training.
He has secured more than 210,000 signatures so far – and Boris has now invited him to deliver the petition to 10 Downing Street this morning – on World Mental Health Day.
Ben said of his chat with the PM: “He was nodding and said it was some-thing he was keen to work on. We are now hoping to get the petition debated in Parliament. I want to make this a reality. Hopefully with Boris’ backing, that is something we can achieve.”
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