Date Published 15 November 2017
THE great and the good of Didcot were out in force as the town celebrated the best of business and community life.
The winners of the ninth annual Business and Community Awards (BACAs) were announced at a ceremony on Friday.
Up to 200 people packed in to the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot for the event as 30 shortlisted nominees found out whether they had won the accolade, known as the `Oscars of Didcot`.
One of the organisers, Sarah Hopgood of Didcot First, said it was a `chance for Didcot and surrounding areas to celebrate excellence and talent from around the local community.`
Two young fundraisers who have helped raise thousands of pounds to help ill and vulnerable people were honoured with `outstanding achievement awards`.
Courtney Hughes from the charity Secret Santa, which has given more than 20,000 gifts to people in care homes, hospitals and hospices over the festive period, was given the award alongside Andrew Baker, the founder of Play2Give which has raised £69,000 for the Oxford Children`s Hospital and other causes.
Ms Hughes, a former Didcot Girls` School pupil, also won the `best fundraising campaign` award.
She said being recognised in her hometown was `especially poignant` and dedicated the win to the memory of her `wonderful great grandmother` – who was also a Didcot resident.
The nursing assistant said: "She taught me you can always help someone regardless of their age, or lifestyle.
"Giving locally is very important to me: it`s an ongoing reminder that you can always do good for others and bring a smile to people`s faces.`
In the business category, Savages garden centre in Blewbury, which has been run by the same family since the early 1960s, won the `best established business` award whilst the Didcot Parkway station was recognised for `involving volunteers`.
For the charity sector the Balsam Family Project, which runs courses and days out for parents and carers and their young children, won both the best volunteer development and best partnerships and collaborations awards.
All the winners received a glass award, a certificate and £100 prize money.
During the event, the audience and special guests were entertained by acts including local harpist Jenny Hill and soprano Kari Moffat.
Neal Veglio, who grew up in Didcot and attended St Birinus School before going into radio presenting, co-hosted the awards with Sarah Hopgood and Di Chesterman from Didcot First.