A fanfare for the Yorkshire heroes who go that extra mile to make a difference

Leah Washington from Barnsley lost a leg in an horrific accident at Alton Towers earlier this year. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Leah Washington from Barnsley lost a leg in an horrific accident at Alton Towers earlier this year. Picture: Scott Merrylees
  • The Yorkshire Post today salutes the people who have made a difference to communities during 2015 in the YP Christmas Honours. We have selected winners from varied backgrounds. Rob Parsons and Joanne Ginley report.
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It was an accident at the country’s most popular theme park that shocked the nation. And six months on from losing a leg in the sickening crash on the Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers this summer, Leah Washington is still re-building her life.

But the 18-year-old from Barnsley has defied the horrific impact of her injuries by using her experience as a force for good.

Bailey Matthews at Sports Personality of the Year 2015

Bailey Matthews at Sports Personality of the Year 2015

Together with fellow Yorkshire crash victim Joe Pugh, Miss Washington has helped to bring in £21,000 for Yorkshire Air Ambulance by organising a fundraising event.

She was keen to raise awareness and money for the rapid response emergency service after being treated on the scene and airlifted to hospital by air ambulance paramedics.

After being targeted by trolls who taunted her about the accident on social media, Miss Washington has also visited a primary school in her hometown to talk about the issue of online bullying.

A prosthetic limb was made for her and over the last few months she has endured the painful process of improving her strength so she can use it for long periods of time.

Miss Washington, who deferred a place at Leeds Trinity University after he accident, told The Yorkshire Post that she initially found it nearly impossible to talk about what happened to her.

She said: “At first it was hard. When I spoke about it I just cried. Because I have told it quite a few times now I am used to it and it has become easier as time goes on.

“It is still hard to think about it and talk about it. It has got easier from when I first opened up about everything.”

Miss Washington is still together with Mr Pugh, 19, who also deserves enormous praise for his bravery after both his kneecaps were shattered in the crash at the Staffordshire theme park.

The pair were on the first proper date at the time of the accident and this month had their first holiday together, spending a weekend in Munich.

Bailey Matthews: Captured hearts

Eight-year-old Bailey, who suffers from cerebral palsy, shot to fame when a video of him completing his first triathlon unaided was posted on The Yorkshire Post website earlier this year.

Despite stumbling twice on his way to the finish line, the youngster from Doncaster, picked himself up and ran the final 20m of the course without his walking frame.

He captured hearts when he was presented with the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show earlier this week and received a standing ovation from the huge audience full of sporting royalty.

Calendar Girls: Charity legacy

Their fundraising journey has already been told on the big screen and this year the Calendar Girls were immortalised on the Leeds stage.

The Girls, created by Take That star Gary Barlow and award-winning writer Tim Firth, which opened at Leeds Grand, tells the story of the adventure that saw a band of close friends create a now infamous risqué calendar in 1999 to raise funds for charity. It is a musical version of the inspiring story of the Rylstone and District WI.

The award recognises the Calendar Girls for their continuing fundraising legacy.

Bill Cowling: Honorary show director

When farmer Bill Cowling stepped down as the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s honorary show director at the end of the 157th Great Yorkshire Show this summer, he did so after ten years at the helm.

For a decade his good humour and jolly character helped make this premier agricultural show a friendly event to visit, while his passion for promoting farming and rural life has never dulled.

When he stepped aside earlier this year, Nigel Pulling, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s chief executive, said: “He is a great ambassador for us and for the agricultural industry.”

Lizzie Jones: Dignity in face of tragedy

At a time of personal tragedy Lizzie Jones has put her efforts into helping others.

Mrs Jones, a professional singer and widow of former Keighley Cougars rugby league player Danny Jones who collapsed during a match and died from undiagnosed hereditary heart disease has been campaigning for cardiac testing to stop another tragedy. Following her husband’s death mandatory heart screening was introduced for rugby players in the championship and League 1.

“It’s just wonderful,” she said of the award.

Hannah Cockroft: athlete supreme

She is an athlete accustomed to winning race after race on the track.

Her impressive record in wheelchair racing has won hearts and minds and she sent out a marker for next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio with another impressive performance at this year’s World Championships in Doha.

She was again victorious and in scintillating racing form at the 2015 IPC World Championships in Doha where she won three gold medals.

The double Paralympic Champion at London 2012 is now preparing for Rio 2016 and again hoping to put distance between her and her rivals.

Yorkshire Cricket: Winning ways

Talk has already started of the Tykes making it a hat-trick of title wins in a row in 2016.

Yorkshire had a tremendous season in Championship cricket lifting the title for a second successive season.

The team will start its bid for a third successive County Championship title against Hampshire at Headingley on Sunday April 17.

“I think the top flight will be stronger with Lancashire and Surrey being promoted,” captain Andrew Gale said when the fixtures were announced for next season earlier this month.

Ibbotsons: Warm welcome

Michael and Sasha Ibbotson, owners of the Durham Ox pub in Crayke, were inspired by the Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign to start a Friendship Lunch in February.

The lunches, backed by Age UK and a host of local charities, are aimed at getting people who are socially isolated out of the house. Since the first lunch, hundreds of people have attended the monthly get-togethers and it has been rolled out to six more venues in the Provenance Inns group across North Yorkshire. Mrs Ibbotson said: “It’s really incredible to have this honour - just amazing.”