Winners of Achievement Awards 2019

Charlie Ilsey

Bradley Lowery Courage Award

Over the past few years, Charlie has had a rough ride. Despite enduring more than what most of us will ever experience in a lifetime, Charlie rarely complains about anything. He is a warrior who possesses so much courage and bravery. Here is why. Charlie’s heart-breaking story: In 2015, at just aged 8, Charlie was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a medulloblastoma. He endured emergency surgery to remove the tumour and then many rounds of radiation followed by four stem cell transplants. He was recovering well, until the devastating news in March 2018 that the tumour had returned in two places on his spine. Two further rounds of chemo didn’t halt the growth and the tumours unfortunately doubled in size during this period. In early 2019, he underwent Cyberknife treatment in Turkey at a huge cost which the NHS would not fund. Most of the money was raised through crowdfunding and one generous private donor. So here we are now, Summer 2019. Since Charlie’s return to the UK in April, he’s doing well and is feeling good. He returned to school part-time and has even enjoyed a few chilled afternoons in his inflatable swimming pool in the back garden. Although his follow-up scans remain clear, which is the best news, in July he started immunotherapy treatment in Germany, to offer hope of a long-term cure. However, as much as he looks forward to a brighter future, there are scars that can’t be erased. Due to the location of the brain tumour, his pituitary gland was damaged, meaning he won’t grow any more. The hair on top of his head will never grow back. He can’t run or play football with his mates as his balance has been affected. The chemotherapy has also left him with irreversible side effects, including permanent blindness in one eye and significant hearing loss. He has also suffered irreparable nerve damage, so that one half of his face permanently droops. Yet regardless, he still smiles, he also had 2 eye surgery 1 facial animation surgery and has another face surgery and eye to go end of year. As his confidence and self-esteem have taken a blow due to the damage inflicted on his body by the disease and the treatment, this award would give him such an incredible boost.

Headway Oxfordshire

Charity of the Year

Headway Oxfordshire is a vital lifeline to those living with brain injuries and their carers. They have recently celebrated turning 30 years old is based in Kennington, Oxford and in this time has supports around 400 individuals affected by brain injury, providing essential support services and to their families, as well as rehabilitation through their Activity and Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) which was redeveloped two years ago.

Headway Oxfordshire relies on the generosity of the local community to provide the essential service to adults that suffer from the devastating effects of a brain injury, whether it’s from strokes, accidents, tumours, meningitis or other forms.

I have been attending Headway Oxfordshire as a service user now for many years and they have made a huge positive impact and changed my life so much for the better, and this for many other service users who attend across four-day centre groups a week. :

Headway Oxfordshire truly is a special and essential lifeline to everyone whose lives are impacted by it, and to have been running for 30 years is an incredible achievement and a testament to the wonderful staff and volunteers who work hard to keep the service running and providing such vital help and support to those whose lives have been affected by a form of brain injury, people like me who without Headway Oxfordshire and their support my life would not have been improved so much.


Company of the Year

In 2015, Rachel Tombs took the huge and unconventional step of leaving her legal career of fifteen years to start her own business, called Links2Leads. Whilst working as a solicitor Rachel had started using LinkedIn to expand her network and keep in contact with existing and future clients – she quickly realised LinkedIn’s potential for creating lasting business opportunities and lead creation. Links2Leads initially focused on offering a professional and expert LinkedIn profile writing service to business owners and individuals. Rachel then expanded her service to run training courses that not only taught attendees the skills necessary to succeed on LinkedIn, but also acted as a networking opportunity for everyone on the day. She also branched out to offer 1-to-1 LinkedIn coaching and LinkedIn profile and content management for those clients who wanted Rachel to build awareness of their business and strategic alliances with key contacts on their behalf.

After only a year, and after helping hundreds across the country, Rachel was awarded third place in the Best of Windsor Awards in the Business and Professional services category.

Rachel is a prolific networker both off and online – she works and lives the values of her business. She always has time for people from any size of business, she’s very much a people person and known to many as the “LinkedIn lady” and now has over 5000 followers on LinkedIn and over 100 recommendations. She can often be heard on local radio discussing the values of networking, LinkedIn and the importance of quality customer engagement. In 2017, her skills were acknowledged when she became the winner of both the Venus Regional and National Networker of the Year Awards.

In October 2018, after increasing demand from her legal Links2Leads clients for additional marketing services, Rachel launched a second business called Orion Legal Marketing. Rachel assembled a team of experts with over 100 years’ legal and marketing expertise between them, and together they offer full marketing and business development services, from strategic to the tactical, including branding, website creation, marketing, videos, brochures and social media. After less than a year, Orion Legal Marketing now provides legal businesses in the UK, Europe and the US with support for their online and offline marketing and business development campaigns.

Rachel supports and inspires her clients and is fully invested in providing them with services that help them grow and achieve their personal and business objectives.

Paul Beasley

Fundraiser of the Year

Paul sadly lost his wife Jill in February 2018 to Secondary Spread Breast Cancer. Jill fought for 5 long years undergoing many different treatments and handling each one with such dignity and patience. Paul and Jill were going to take on the JOGLE (John O’Groats to Lands’ End) challenge before Jill became ill. Sadly, they never got around to do it together. Paul decided that 2019 was going to be the year he took on the JOGLE challenge and knew his wife Jill would have wanted him to. He chose to raise funds for Against Breast Cancer, who fund research into Secondary Spread Breast Cancer, as he wanted more people to have more tomorrows with their loved ones. Paul set off on the 1st May from John o’ Groats and over 76 days, walked 1360 miles to reach Lands’ End on the 15th July. Throughout Paul’s JOGLE challenge he did a daily blog to keep everyone updated on where he was and how he was getting on. Paul did this challenge unassisted with just a rucksake on his back. He stayed in Air B&B’s, hostels and even sleeping pods. Walking though water, high foliage, near to the edge of cliffs and through some of the most beautiful parts of the country in very high heats then some days getting blown over and soaking wet from the wind, rain and hail, Paul’s JOGLE was very challenging. On day 30 of this JOGLE Paul had a slip on the Pennine Way. He badly hurt his ankle and knee – over the coming weeks Paul’s leg got worse but he refused to give up and carried on with his walk, walking anywhere between 15 – 27 miles a day. Paul managed to get his leg check out around day 50 and then on day 57 was told he had a grade 1 tear in his hamstring. Despite being in a huge amount of pain, Paul carried on walking. The love for his wife Jill and the determination to finish, along with all the support he had from friend’s family and even strangers he’d met on his route kept his spirits high and drove him to the finish! Paul has raised so far £9000.00 for Against Breast Cancer, this true gentleman has done his wife proud.

Andrew Baker

Lifetime Achievement Award

Andrew from Oxfordshire has been fundraising for over 17 years and has raised over £175,000 which he has given back to good causes. He lives with a brain injury but despite this he is a prolific fundraiser particularly in Didcot where he lives. He has an extraordinary positive attitude through determination drive and perseverance since a very young age despite his own adversity. . Andy began his mission to repay Oxford medics who saved his life twice. followed by setting up his very own fundraising organisation aged 19. He doesn’t show any sign of retiring in raising funds anytime soon from. It is Andy created his very own successful charity, Play2Give which he proudly founded in September 2007. Play2Give was initially born from a football tournament for charity but since 2013 has evolved becoming a well-respected and much-loved fundraising organisation. Andy’s charity has really developed, organising and hosting a wide number of events and campaigns, all from his inspirational leadership and drive. He oversees a team of ever-growing volunteers to come together to create change through positive impact, many long-term for the benefit of others, from young and old from healthcare services to those less fortunate.
Andy brings out the best in people he unites them and passionately fundraises because for him giving back means so much to him. His team of volunteers has increased to 30 plus after a group of ‘Superheroes’ came on board to help. These specialist volunteers raise funds and awareness by organising runs and walks and public events.
Andy has received a British Citizen Award at the Palace of Westminster in 2017. One of the most significant and proudest achievements was the single patient room that opened at the Oxford Children’s Hospital named after the organisation in March 2017 treating teenage patients. The achievement of a lifelong room for teenage patients only happened because of Andy’s passion to see the project of raising £40k for the sponsored patient room through.
At Christmas last year Andy and a group from his Army of volunteers visited the Children’s hospital JR wards to deliver the biggest amount of presents ever donated through the fourth ‘Sleigh2Give’ appeal which saw gifts estimated to be worth around 30k distributed out amongst young patients their siblings at the hospital and also young carers in South Oxfordshire and parents who benefit from the support of Home-Start to ensure that a wide number received a Christmas present they may not otherwise have got.

Mitali Kelly

Local Hero Award

What started out as a new year’s resolution to reduce the amount of plastic in her waste became a mission, when Mitali, a finance consultant, developed a passion to educate others on how to recycle.

She began buying plastic-free products, started researching different recycling methods and firmly believes that children are the key to challenging us changes the way we think about waste.

Additionally, Mitali reduced plastic by using plastic free deodorants, shampoo bars, soap, EcoEggs for laundry and she now shops in zero waste and refill stores as much as possible. Like most consumers, she found it very complicated to understand what we can recycle via the council and her focus became making recycling simpler to understand. She also came across Terracycle, a company that takes the plastic waste that councils do not recycle and turn this into plastic pellets that can be used for playground equipment, whilst simultaneously benefitting charities.

On Earth day in April 2019, Mitali attempted to broaden awareness of Terracycle in her local village Twyford by running a competition which was promoted by the Henley Standard. Through a local magazine (RG10) promotion of the event she met Emma Donald from the action group Twyford Together, and the two of them pushed to launch Terracycle collection points into Twyford. Mitali is now on the Steering Committee for newly formed Twyford Rethinks Its Plastic (TRIP), a group which is working on reducing single use plastic in businesses and has accredited 5 business as plastic free. TRIP’s agenda is to encourage residents to: Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Terracycle or Ecobrick before allowing waste plastic to go to landfill.

The next stage is to accelerate educating Twyford residents, with a specific push on EcoBricks. TRIP Is attending events in Twyford and working with local schools in order to spread the word

Mitali says “The EcoBricks are being sent to a homeless charity in Reading to build shelters, an initiative being lead by two amazing Twyford residents Gordon Holmes and Holly McRitchie.


Medical Worker Award

Q1Care is comprised of a dedicated team of experienced carers, with experience of companionship, dementia, palliative care and homecare across the UK as well as locally now in Berkshire and Oxfordshire, including Henley and Wallingford. Melanie Meads founded Q1Care Ltd in 2013 having spent most of her professional career in nursing and caring for the vulnerable in one form or another. She has 15 years’ experience in nursing, from care of the elderly to Director of Nursing in Moscow. Melanie has always had a sense of concern for the unrepresented sectors of society – the elderly or infirm. Melanie loves to care and loves the elderly.  Her best day would be able to sit and listen to her patients and all their stories from when they were young.  Melanie’s care ethics ripple throughout her business and she always create time for her clients, so they feel valued and cared for. A couple of years ago Melanie set up The Care Hub in Goring a community area within her local village and for Melanie this was a great personal achievement and one that she is wanting to do more of throughout the country – our local communities are key to our health and wellbeing at any age. The Care Hub in Goring is ‘the place’ for people to congregate in Goring, Berkshire, if they are looking for adult support, company or advice on any aspects of care in the home. The Care Hub is now part of the Safe Places National Network. What does the hub provide? We run a range of clubs and educational sessions and are of course dementia friendly. We are a safe and caring environment for anyone needing that little helping hand or someone to turn to.

Melanie Meads, founder of Q1Care, is an active member of the Gap community and has been involved in many community services over the years, from being a school governor, working for a couple of the local businesses and being the treasurer for the scouts for a time. She is a dementia champion and is a member of the Dementia Action Alliance group in Reading.

Debbie Atkins

Networker of the Year

Debbie has always been a prolific networker, promoting her Nordic walking business. A few years ago, she decided to invest in becoming an Athena Network Regional Director. The Athena Network is a women’s only networking franchise. Debbie started with three groups in Reading and now has six! She is known by everyone as incredibly hard working and an amazing networker. She is selfless in her referrals and has a passion to help women grow their owns businesses and goes above and beyond to help them regardless if they are a start-up or established. She is a fountain of knowledge. She doesn’t only run the Reading and Henley Athena groups which are forever growing, she also organises social events to further network and encourage people to come together in a professional and personal way. She is also an avid supporter of local charities, she donates from her meetings, events and attends as many as she can. She always supports the Against Breast Cancer Achievement Awards by having two tables for The Athena Network members, family and friends. She has walked the Reading Half Marathon in the snow when it was cancelled as she couldn’t stand not completing the challenge she was sponsored for. She is an all-round brilliant businesswoman, community supporters but most of all known as the key networker in Berkshire.

Daniel Atkins

Young Achiever Award

In the spring of 2017 Daniel (Dan) Atkins a young canoeist from Reading who was promoted to boys B division in the national sprint canoeing divisions, from that point he trained daily to achieve his dream of national and international success, in the Autumn of 2017 he represented Great Britain in the Olympic Hopes regatta in Racice Czech Republic, roll forwards to 2018 with further effort and daily determination he was invited to train at Dorney Lake alongside members of the senior GB team, the 2018 season culminated in a Bronze Medal at the Olympic Hopes in Poznan racing over 500m in a K4 Kayak with fellow GB team mates. In 2019 Daniel began training alongside Liam Heath GB’s Olympic Gold medallist and world record holder. Earlier this year Dan set the national junior course record at Nottingham National print regatta over his favoured 200m distance. He qualified also to represent GB at both the European Championships and the World Championships. Dan excelled at both events winning every heat and semi-final. He also won both finals being crowned U18 Junior Men’s champion taking the gold medal at both events. To culminate the 2019 season Dan raced at the UK National Championships in Nottingham where he achieved 6 National Championship titles and two silver medals. He is a dedicated young man, modest in his approach and continually willing to help other junior and adult athletes alike in their canoeing, he juggled his studies with his daily training commitments arriving slightly late to school each day having got up after 05:00 to train rain or shine each day.