Stars, including the Isle’s own Sheridan Smith and John Parr, joined over 230 people and several storm troopers at Epworth in a heartwarming, sparkling evening of tribute and entertainment.
Extraordinary tales of courage and care, and the people behind them, were celebrated at the first Pride of the Isle Awards, that is now set to be repeated annually.
There was sadness and joy in equal measure as stories of loss, bravery and survival were shared, and awards made to nine special men, women and children.
But the evening, staged for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice in memory of the late Alexander Strong of Epworth, kicked off with dance from the ENA Academy, before music from local band The Torn then John Parr, who brought the audience to its feet with an acoustic version of St Elmo’s fire, dedicated to Lexy. Comedy and more guitar came later from Steve Womack.
The town’s own Sheridan Smith made a surprise entrance and chatted with everyone before adding to the climax of the evening and filling the dance floor with a stunning rendition of Nine to Five with her brother Damien's band - “The Torn”.
She said: “I came up from London last night especially for the awards and went to the Crown Inn at Belton. I wanted to be here by midnight to wish my mum happy birthday.
“It’s been a wonderful evening. I have got to know and love Lexy’s family, and this event is all about family, with a room full of inspiring people. I love my Isle - it’s full of community spirit and you can feel the warmth here.”
Epworth Leisure Centre was decked out in green, Lexy’s favourite colour, for the event. And there were few dry eyes as winners were announced and they made their way from the floor to receive awards.
The final touch was to release balloons in Lexy’s favourite green, in his memory. Despite biting cold and rain, there was no shortage of enthusiastic supporters to help send them up in to the night sky.
The black tie event was a huge success that it is estimated will have raised well over £3,000. Everything from the hot and cold buffet to the prize raffle ran smoothly and was a credit to the work of the five women behind it, led by Epworth’s Leesa Sharpe, with Katie Anderson, Maxine Strong, Ellie Allport and Melissa James.
After accepting the Most Inspirational Award on behalf of his late wife Anna, Epworth’s Paul Verrico said: “While I do not believe in much any more - I do believe in the basic decency of human nature here in the Isle. The love and warmth shown to my young family is without parallel. Tonight you may be presenting Anna with the Most Inspirational award (for which I thank you on her behalf) but you all inspire me, every day.”
The Epworth Bells & Crowle Advertiser (2 February 2014)