The Independent’s Happy List 2020: Heroes in a crisis

Today The Independent publishes its annual Happy List, which this year honours 50 remarkable heroes

Today The Independent publishes its annual Happy List, which this year honours 50 remarkable heroes in a crisis who have helped others during the Covid-19 pandemic. These are some of Britain’s most inspirational individuals, whose kindness, ingenuity and dedication prove that the worst of times can bring out our best.

The 50 people here have been chosen by a panel from scores of nominations from you, the readers of The Independent. We received so many examples of people doing extraordinary things without thought of personal gain, and acts of kindness uniting communities. A huge thank you to everyone who played a part.

The Happy List, in partnership with GoFundMe, the world’s largest online fundraising platform, is completely unranked. Instead, it appears in alphabetical order, as it would be impossible to measure the successes of these individuals against each other. They include a six-year old boy with spina bifida who became a fundraising hero; the couple from Inverness who brought their community together to help the most vulnerable; the BBC costume designer turned maker of medical scrubs; and the musician who has been performing free “pavement concerts” to lift spirits during lockdown. They prove that in today’s crisis, and in every crisis, there are opportunities for all of us to do something positive.

Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent, says: “In this time of such extraordinary turmoil, extraordinary characters have stepped up to make a difference. This year’s Happy List is devoted entirely to exactly these people – from carers who have risked their lives to save others, to fundraisers who have brought hope and comfort. We can’t possibly celebrate everyone who deserves credit, but those on this list deserve our recognition and our gratitude. Our thanks to them all – and to those who nominated such a broad and uplifting crowd.”

No list that aims to celebrate 2020’s acts of heroism and selflessness would be complete without mentioning the countless key workers who have kept our country running. From medics to refuse collectors, bus drivers to shelf stackers, they are all true heroes in a crisis.

The Independent’s Happy List was founded in 2008 as an antidote to the many awards that glorify wealth or celebrity. Instead it shines a light on those who give rather than take, and who help others rather than line their own pockets. This is the first time it has focused on the actions undertaken by people in response to one specific crisis. Read about all 50 of the selected Happy Listers here:

Lorraine Anne (left) shopping for goods to donate to east London’s homeless
Lorraine Anne (left) shopping for goods to donate to east London’s homeless

Lorraine Tabone

For almost five years Lorraine Tabone has run Lola’s Homeless, coordinating a team of volunteers from her east London flat to help rough sleepers find safe accommodation and support. Despite the government’s efforts to find housing for anyone without a home during the pandemic, the economic fallout saw many people find themselves on the streets. Tabone’s team not only provided food, clothes and essentials, but advocated to find solutions for their long-term wellbeing. “Lorraine uses her own kitchen to cook those meals,” says one of the people who nominated her. “She has been instrumental in ensuring that anyone who needed help was given it, and she didn’t stop until they got it. She helps people every single day.”

Community Senior Letters creator Nina Andersen
Community Senior Letters creator Nina Andersen

Nina Andersen

This inspirational 16-year-old student from London created Community Senior Letters, a not-for-profit initiative that connects primary school children with people in care homes that they can write letters to. When care home visitors were banned, Nina set out to provide human connection during lockdown. She says “the letters allow hope and happiness to be brought to the elderly residents at care homes, and for them to form wonderful friendships. Likewise, students are able to form friendships by unleashing their inner creativity as they send letters and drawings to the care homes”.

Hassan Akkad

Syrian NHS cleaner Hassan Akkad was a filmmaker and teacher before taking up his current job on a Covid-19 ward at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone. He created videos that helped bring about changes in government policy on the treatment of foreign carework staff. Filled with a desire to help at the start of the pandemic, Akkad sought out the cleaning job at one of the capital’s busiest hospitals. He says “Leytonstone is my adopted home. I want to help my neighbours, the patients and the staff.” One of the many who nominated him says “he shows the very best of the British public”.

Claire Balkind

More than a million people have flocked to the Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas Facebook group, set up by Balkind in early March as a place to share childcare tips. For countless working parents it has become invaluable, featuring not only activity ideas but wellbeing advice. Balkind, 36, from Barnet, has since published a book of the ideas, with proceeds going to Barnardos. One of those who nominated Claire says “it is such a helpful group, a lovely online community that makes me feel less alone in this mad time”.

Jason Baird and Andrew Baldock

This duo, known as the Stockport Spidermen, take it in turns to go on a daily run dressed as the superhero to cheer up neighbours. Jason and Andrew also run a Facebook page of fun activities to encourage people to exercise which now has over 10,000 members. They have raised more than £40,000 for NHS charities, and have inspired others across the country to dress up in their communities. “It’s just to keep everyone smiling,” says Jason, 34, who runs a martial arts school.

Ashley Bates

After schools were shut and lessons moved online, London drama teacher Ashley Bates wanted to do something for anyone missing the community aspect of education. He began The Shed School from his garden in Hinchley Wood, Surrey, running live online English and maths classes every morning. Describing it as “a community where kids can tune in and have fun, while also learning a thing or two”, Bates soon had more than 4,000 people watching and was branded the “educational Joe Wicks”.

Nahla-Rose Bartlett-Vanderpuye

In early April, this determined eight-year-old from east London used her own pocket money to buy some materials and borrowed her grandmother’s 3D printer to make some personal protective visors. Each one took more than 90 minutes to make, but she soon had 10 ready to donate to her local hospital, inscribed with the message “you are all doing a great service: Love Nahla-Rose, age eight”. After setting up a GoFundMe to buy more materials, Nahla-Rose has since made and donated more than 600 visors to more than 10 hospitals, GP surgeries, and care homes – including the maternity unit she was born in.

A little less conversation... Tony Beard provides some lockdown entertainment
A little less conversation… Tony Beard provides some lockdown entertainment

Tony Beard

Tony Beard, a team leader at a supported housing service in Liverpool, has been donning his full Elvis tribute gear to sing live – in a socially distant manner – to raise morale among the tenants who live at his service. Beard works at Making Space, a national health and social care charity, and his live performances have also been made available virtually to the 16,000 people Making Space supports. The person who nominated him says “when Tony isn’t shaking things up, he has been encouraging residents to use the outside space for activities. He has the compassion and dedication to pull everyone together to get through these challenging times.”

Rob Biddulph

For countless families stuck inside scrabbling around for kids’ entertainment, Rob Biddulph’s free online drawing videos became a lifeline. His #DrawWithRob series on YouTube was watched by more than 3 million households around the world. On the 21 May, the children’s author and illustrator led what officially became the largest online art lesson ever, as 45,611 participants joined him in drawing a blue whale. As well as breaking the Guinness world record, Biddulph raised £51,970 for charities working to fight the effects of the pandemic.

Simon Bucknell

Since the start of the lockdown, Simon Bucknell from Bath has clocked up over 900 hours as an NHS volunteer while also working 50-hour weeks as a Deliveroo rider. Not content with just volunteering, Simon launched his own campaign, called #feedtheruh, to deliver free food to staff and patients on the children’s wards at Bath’s Royal United Hospital. After raising more than £500, Simon, 49, bought sandwiches and then personally delivered them. He also convinced a local restaurant, The Oven, to cook more than 40 pizzas for him to deliver to hospital staff.

Darren Burrows

During the panic-buying early days of the pandemic, key workers struggled to buy food after long shifts. To feed the front line, Darren Burrows and his team set up Harvest for Heroes, raising money to collect and distribute free boxes of fruit, vegetables, milk and other essentials to hospitals and care services in London, the southeast and later in the north of England. The campaign had the welcome knock-on effect of supporting wholesale suppliers in New Covent Garden Market which had been hit by restaurant closures, as well as helping to keep drivers and warehouse packing staff employed. “A wonderful effort which has been much appreciated by the staff. I commend Darren for his effort and hard work,” says one grateful frontline worker.

Ruth Chaloner

Psychotherapist Ruth Chaloner from Oxfordshire created The Help Hub, a free online emotional support service for anyone experiencing loneliness, depression or anxiety during lockdown. More than 800 qualified volunteer therapists nationwide are now supporting The Help Hub with their expertise, providing 2,500-plus virtual emotional support sessions via phone or online call every week to anyone aged over 18 in the UK.

Jan Collins

In mid May, 91-year-old Jan Collins from Troon, Ayrshire, set himself the challenge of completing 1000 holes of golf in his garden to raise money for Marie Curie and the STV Children’s Appeal. Despite undergoing treatment for stage four prostate cancer, Collins played golf all day every day from 9am until 9pm – with a power nap after lunch for energy. So far he has raised more than £17,000, smashing his original target amount of £5000. Jan says: “I am delighted to raise funds to help people who are suffering such hardship from coronavirus, particularly those suffering from terminal illnesses and children living in poverty.”

Stephen Collins of York’s Tang Hall Community Centre Food Hub
Stephen Collins of York’s Tang Hall Community Centre Food Hub

Stephen Collins

“Where to start about why Stephen deserves to be on the Happy List,” begins one person who nominated the man behind York’s Tang Hall Community Centre Food Hub. Stephen Collins manages a large team of volunteers who do everything from delivering prescriptions and food parcels to carrying out welfare checks. “Stephen cares for everyone and has built a ‘family’ from a disparate bunch of volunteers,” his nominator adds. “He works tirelessly to ensure the hub operates safely, efficiently and with compassion, motivating and inspiring us all with his ethical leadership, commitment and energy. We need more Stephens.”

Susan Crawford and Corinna Robertson

This pair of friends turned a disused phone box in Perthshire into a “village larder” full of groceries and essentials for anyone struggling during lockdown. Muthill, which has a population of 675, has many residents who can’t drive to nearby towns to stock up. Susan Crawford and Corinna Robertson stepped in to offer goods on a “take what you need” service, spreading the word on their community Facebook page. The village larder inspired many residents to donate items they felt others may need, and it has became a focal point for helping anyone who may need extra community support.

Jake Day

Jake Day, 10, was inspired to do something to help hospitals which had become unable to fundraise due to the pandemic. Jake, 10, set himself the challenge of running 250km – that’s about six marathons – in 30 days to raise money for the NHS. “I knew they’d have a lot less money than they need for things like equipment,” says Jake, whose mum is a nurse at Cardiff’s Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital. He ran along the Taff Trail every day for a month, raising more then £5,000.

Lauren Ezekiel launched campaign We C U to give key workers a boost
Lauren Ezekiel launched campaign We C U to give key workers a boost

Lauren Ezekiel

Former magazine editor Lauren Ezekiel set up campaign We C U to distribute goody bags full of donated beauty products to NHS staff. Lauren, 36, from Epping in Essex used her beauty industry contacts to call in thousands of items, including 24,000 bottles of Palmers body lotion, 22,000 Burt’s Bees lip balms and 7,000 face wipes. The “unbelievable” response to the campaign led her to borrow warehouse units to act as a stockroom and hire packing and driver volunteers. “It’s a way to thank the carers and nurses,” says Ezekiel, who has raised more than £5,000 on GoFundMe to make it happen

Samantha Faulkner

Samantha Faulkner, 42, is a support worker for people with learning disabilities at Affinity Trust in West Yorkshire. She accompanied a profoundly disabled, non-verbal woman who was admitted to hospital with Covid-19. “It must have been a very frightening experience for the patient,” says the person who made the nomination. “Sam didn’t think twice before going with her to provide reassurance and to be her voice in hospital. She slept on the floor of the hospital ward beside her for five days, and upon discharge she remained isolated for 14 days with the lady in her home. This is going above and beyond the call of duty, and shows Sam’s exceptional commitment.”

Jay Flynn

The day after Britain closed its pubs, car salesman Jay Flynn from Darwen, Lancashire, created a virtual pub quiz which he planned to host a few days later on YouTube. What he hoped would be a fun distraction for some friends became an international sensation, with more than 300,000 people around the world tuning in. Not only did former pub manager Flynn break the world record for the biggest number of participants in an online quiz, he also raised almost £200,000 for NHS Charities Together. The quiz – which became biweekly – has since had questions submitted to it by Boris Johnson and Stephen Fry, while Gary Barlow has provided half-time entertainment.

William Gibson

William Gibson, 17, from Northamptonshire, is the whizz behind Wash Your Lyrics which lets people pair song lyrics with NHS hand-washing posters to encourage them to adhere to the government’s advice to spend at least 20 seconds under the taps. Since William launched the innovative site from his bedroom in March it has become a worldwide sensation, with more than a million users creating more than 4 million bespoke posters.

Dominic and Shelley Gill

In March, this husband and wife team from Inverness set up a Facebook group to connect people in need with those who can offer support in their local areas. Within eight hours of setting up Acts of Kindness Inverness and Highlands it had over 3,000 members. Dominic and Shelley began coordinating support for more than 7,000 people, including delivering care packages and hot meals to people shielding. Dominic says: “Some people are simply not able to compete for supplies at the shops because they cannot afford them as they are on benefits, have a low income, or cannot get there because they are elderly or disabled. Those are the people that we want to help.”

Lisa Jagger is described as ‘hardworking and positive, she always has a smile’
Lisa Jagger is described as ‘hardworking and positive, she always has a smile’

Lisa Jagger

Lisa Jagger runs Straightforward Funding which helps people find and apply for grant funding. In these challenging economic times, she has tracked down and disseminated as much information as possible about all the help available for vulnerable people and organisations, providing free daily email updates detailing where and how to apply, as well as giving free Zoom meetings. “Lisa works tirelessly to connect, support and lift up the local community in Huddersfield,” says one person who nominated her. “Hardworking and positive, she always has a smile.”

Asiyah and Jawad Javed

When grocery shop owner Asiyah Javed met an elderly customer who was upset about being unable to buy hand soap due to stockpiling, she took swift action. Along with her husband Jawad, Asiyah began handing out free parcels of hand sanitiser, face masks and other essentials to vulnerable people in Stenhousemuir, near Falkirk. Asiyah and Jawad, who run shop Day Today Express, started the project to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and also to help people feel less alone. “We need to work together,” says Asiyah, 34. “If we work as a community, we will all be fine.”

Anne Jones

The support that octogenarian Anne Jones offers in her community is described by one person as “invaluable, immeasurable and unstinting”. For more than 20 years Jones has given her time free of charge to support elderly and vulnerable residents in Neston on the Wirral. The help she offers ranges from applying for grants and benefits to organising support and meet-ups to tackle loneliness. The person who nominated Jones says “throughout lockdown she has increased her workload immensely, working seven days a week as she has experienced such an increase in requests for support and advice. She still even endeavours to visit some people, using taxis at her own expense as she does not drive.”

Soumya Krishna-Kumar created The Crisis Project: Letters to the NHS
Soumya Krishna-Kumar created The Crisis Project: Letters to the NHS

Soumya Krishna-Kumar

University of Warwick maths student Soumya Krishna-Kumar, 19, created The Crisis Project: Letters to the NHS to encourage members of the public to write letters of support to frontline workers, recognising their individual efforts during the pandemic. There are now more than 700 volunteers, aged from six to 90, who send their letters of appreciation. One of those who nominated Krishna-Kumar, who is from Ilford, says: “I know she has inspired others to spread kindness during these times of anxiety and fear.”

Isaac Knowles

Determined to raise money for local food banks and his school St Oswald’s in Netherton, Liverpool, Isaac Knowles set himself the challenge of cycling 10k on an indoor bike for 10 consecutive days. Isaac, seven, has sensory processing issues which affect his coordination, making riding a bike difficult. He initially aimed to raise £50, but once the donations began pour in, he extended the challenge to cycle 10k every day for 40 days. He has now raised £5,000 which he has shared among 10 of his favourite charities.

Lee and Lorraine Lewis ‘inspire the community and make it a better place to live’
Lee and Lorraine Lewis ‘inspire the community and make it a better place to live’

Lee and Lorraine Lewis

Co-founders of charity The Lewis Foundation, husband and wife Lee and Lorraine Lewis dedicate their time to sending gifts for hospital cancer patients to help support them during treatment. Currently unable to deliver items themselves due to the pandemic, the couple have found innovative ways to persuade companies to donate gifts directly to more then seven hospitals across the midlands, as well as arranging activity packages to be sent to people with cancer who are self-isolating. “Lee and Lorraine continue to organise around 2,500 gifts every month,” says one person who nominated them. “They inspire the community and make it a better place to live.”

Romain Malan

As director of the not-for-profit World Harmony Orchestra, Romain Malan understands the powerful, therapeutic nature of live music. Throughout lockdown he has organised small, socially distanced live performances across the UK, matching local musicians to play to vulnerable people. More than 70 concerts have taken place, including rock, pop, classical and folk music, all following government guidelines – a maximum of two musicians playing in gardens or on pavement. One concertgoer says: “I felt so happy for the first time in seven weeks, I was crying with joy.”

Rachel McCaffery

Give Them A Break is a fundraising campaign launched by Rachel McCaffery, 51, to reward low-income key workers with free or discounted holidays. One of the many who nominated McCaffery says “she works 16-hour days, as well as looking after two kids and running her own business, but wanted to acknowledge the sacrifices key workers made while we were all safely locked down at home”. McCaffery, who lives in Brighton, established the fund with charity partner the Family Holiday Association and now coordinates a team of unpaid volunteers working on the initiative.

David Miller brought together a community of cutters, printers, makers and drivers to create urgently needed PPE
David Miller brought together a community of cutters, printers, makers and drivers to create urgently needed PPE

David Miller

“He is the brains, inspiration and driving force behind ViseUp+,” says one of the many who nominated David Miller, a former teacher who leads a team which produces and distributes more than 25,000 units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) every week. Back in March Miller, from Glasgow, began sourcing materials and brought together a community of cutters, printers, makers and drivers – collectively called ViseUp+ – to try to fill the PPE shortfall. To pay for it all he set up a GoFundMe campaign which has now raised more than £85,000. “David constantly thinks how he can help others and has united a community, making them feel hopeful and useful. He is a true hero when the nation needed people like him most,” says the nominator.

Frank Mills

Six-year-old Frank Mills, who has spina bifida, was so inspired by Sir Tom Moore’s fundraising effort he pledged to walk 10 metres every day with his frame. Frank, from Bristol, only started walking 18 months ago, but was determined to challenge himself in order to raise money for NHS Charities Together. His mum Janet says: “He watched Sir Tom walk with his walking frame, and Frank said, ‘I want to do that!’” Via his fundraising page Frank has now raised more than £300,000.

Wendy Minhinnett

In 2014 Wendy Minhinnett set up Rollercoaster, a support group for parents and carers of children with mental health problems in County Durham. At the start of lockdown Minhinnett immediately moved the support groups online and increased their frequency to ensure parents and carers got extra support at a time when many vulnerable young people were struggling even more so. She has also provided virtual workshops and online training sessions, as well as creating free wellbeing boxes for the families she supports. “Wendy is a massive support to so many people, I would be lost without her,” says the person who nominated her.

Sir Tom Moore became a ‘beacon of hope’ for Great Britain
Sir Tom Moore became a ‘beacon of hope’ for Great Britain

Captain Sir Tom Moore

No list of heroes would be complete without the war veteran who not only raised more than £32m for NHS charities, but also inspired a slew of other fundraisers. Captain Tom captured the hearts of the nation by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday on 30 April, with Boris Johnson describing him as “a beacon of light through the fog of coronavirus”. The centenarian was then awarded a knighthood for his fundraising efforts. One of the great many who nominated him says: “Sir Tom made a lot of people very happy, exactly when we needed a lift.”

Abdullah Mushtaq

As the director of Feedo Needo, Abdullah Mushtaq helps to look after the homeless and vulnerable across Birmingham, delivering both hot meals and groceries. Since the start of the pandemic, Mushtaq and the volunteers he coordinates have seen a huge rise in demand. The team at Feedo Needo upped their hours to ensure they helped every person in need, distributing food parcels across the city, including to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Jill Orr

Jill Orr, from southeast London, is the mastermind behind GoFundMe fundraiser Buy Them A Coffee. It started as a simple idea – to provide community-funded support to healthcare workers, starting with a free cuppa. However, Orr found it was actually fruit and groceries that were needed by staff taking breaks or finishing shifts exhausted. After raising more than £43,000 and involving local restaurants, Orr’s scheme has delivered more 1,100 boxes of fruit and vegetables and 1,200 flapjacks to hospital staff. One of those who nominated Orr says “she helped staff to take a step back from the crisis and relax, and even provided aromatherapy oils to help them do just that”.

Nicole Pisani

Nicole Pisani is the co-founder of charity Chefs in Schools, which pairs restaurant-quality chefs with schools to teach children about cooking and help introduce healthier menus. At the start of the crisis when children entitled to free school meals were going hungry, Pisani quickly switched the charity’s model to make sure the UK’s most vulnerable kept being fed. She partnered with brands, including Rude Health, to collectively raise £100,000, enabling her to provide 80,000 meals to eligible children.

Emdad Rahman ‘truly gives his life to helping people’
Emdad Rahman ‘truly gives his life to helping people’

Emdad Rahman

Dad of three Emdad Rahman from Barking has long been volunteering in the east London community, but during Covid-19 he stepped up efforts to help seven days a week. Most days he clocks up over 30km on his bicycle, transporting donated books to care homes and to vulnerable groups as part of his #bookbikelondon initiative. He also works with the Hedgecock Community Centre foodbank and The One Third soup kitchen to deliver food parcels and other essentials. Rahman says he loves having a socially distant chat and “making human contact” with the elderly or homeless people who may be lonely. One person who nominated him says: “Emdad truly gives his life to helping people.”

Gerry Robinson

Gerry Robinson is headteacher at north London’s Woodside High School, serving a community with some of the highest levels of socioeconomic deprivation in the UK. When the pandemic took hold and with schools set to close, Robinson took swift action. She set up a food bank to help families who would struggle without school meals and organised laptops to be loaned to as many students as possible, along with dongles for those without internet at home. Homework was also printed and posted out weekly so that no child was left out. One person who nominated her says: “Gerry has worked tirelessly to support her students and their families, providing amazing leadership. She is truly inspirational.”

Dulcie Scott

This is the wonder woman behind Helping Dress Medics, an initiative that has raised more than £100,000 to make scrubs for frontline workers. Back in March seamstress Dulcie Scott rounded up a group of talented friends around the country, many of whom worked in the costume department of the BBC TV series His Dark Materials – known as HDM, hence the initiative’s matching initials. Thanks to the astonishing amount raised on its GoFundMe, Scott and the group have since produced thousands of sets of scrubs. “The shortfall of PPE in the northeast was so acute I could have cried,” says Scott, 57. “We’re just trying to help, one scrub at a time”. She was described as a “tireless force for good” by one of the many who nominated her.

Margaret Seaman

This 91-year-old from Caister-on-Sea in Norfolk knitted an entire hospital to raise money for NHS charities. Margaret Seaman – affectionately known as Norfolk’s Queen of Knitting – has raised tens of thousands for local charities through her unique knitting projects over the years, and she was desperate to do something to help frontline workers during the pandemic. To raise money for her three local hospitals, Seaman created her “Knittingale Hospital” which features wards, medical staff, patients, an X-ray department and a coffee shop.

Charandeep Singh runs a food bank for the vulnerable in Scotland
Charandeep Singh runs a food bank for the vulnerable in Scotland

Charandeep Singh

Charandeep Singh’s initiative the Sikh Foodbank went from handing out 100 or so food parcels a week to serving up 20,000 meals as more and more people sought help during the crisis. The project organises the delivery of grocery packs and cooked meals, and provides a volunteer shopping service for those self-isolating. Singh, who is deputy chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and lives in Glasgow, was inspired by Sikh values of community service, but the food bank is available to anyone, and most of the weekly deliveries in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen are to non-Sikhs.

Eva Spickernell and Manon McAllister

Best friends Eva Spickernell and Manon McAllister have been keeping their village of Beckbury in Shropshire informed during lockdown with their newspaper called Happy News, which is filled with positive stories from around the world. The girls, both aged 11, write and print the weekly paper in between doing their school work, before distributing it to residents and to the village’s community shop.

Crystal Stanley

Rainbows in windows became a symbol of hope during the pandemic, and were even mentioned during The Queen’s national address. They are the brainchild of Crystal Stanley, from Ipswich, who created the now iconic Rainbow Trail campaign with her daughter Ariana as a way to show support for the NHS and key workers. It began as an idea for children in her local area to spot them while out on their daily walk, before quickly growing into a nationwide phenomenon. As well as uniting millions of households across the UK through a symbol of togetherness and positivity, 31-year-old Stanley has also raised money for East Anglian Children’s Hospices and Mind.

Olivia Strong

Back in March runner Olivia Strong, 27, from Edinburgh, created the Run for Heroes 5km challenge, aiming to raise £5,000 for the NHS. The idea was simple – she knew more people were out running, so why not get them to run 5K, donate £5 to the NHS and then challenge five of their friends to do the same, using #runforheroes. The challenge instantly went viral, with people all over the world taking part, including Mo Farah and Ellie Goulding. It has now raised over £5m for NHS charities.

Kate Swindells

During lockdown’s gardening boom, Kate Swindells inspired many local residents in Sopwell, St Albans, to grow fruit and veg through her “Covid-safe help yourself” front garden, where people can pick up seed packs or seedlings to grow. Kate is part of Grow Community – Sopwell, a thriving Facebook group that offers gardening advice, and she is also an integral part of the group planning to start a community garden. One happy person who nominated her says: “I’ve been very inspired by Kate, gardening helped give me a purpose.”

Jamie Vermiglio

Headteacher at Locking Stumps Community Primary School in Warrington, Cheshire, Jamie is described as going “above and beyond” during lockdown. After the school shut he mobilised his team to offer distance-learning support, creating a timetable of events including online bingo sessions to boost morale and promote connectivity. He also edited videos of the children dancing and singing and provided treats and prizes for engagement. One of his pupils says: “Mr Vermiglio is fun, kind and he helps everyone, and that makes the school a nice place to be.”

Chris Walker

Since March Chris Walker, aka DJ Toph, has hosted virtual “stay positive house parties” twice a week in an effort to lift spirits and raise money for mental health charity Mind. On Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings Walker, from Kelvedon, Essex, brings people together through the medium of house music. “He has kept a whole online community feeling positive,” says someone who nominated Walker. “It’s like one big family.” To further boost his fundraising the DJ did a 24-hour non stop party which raised more than £8,000.

David Walston

This Cambridge farmer transformed two 1,000sq m patches of his land into large community vegetable patches and invited local people to get involved in growing vegetables. David Walston, 37, who runs 900-hectare Thriplow Farms, named the project CoVeg, aiming for it to both combat potential food shortages and unite people. He says: “We are all trying to pull together, and I thought that if I contributed in these areas, it would complement well with the community providing the time which is needed, the end result being a positive one for all. Together we can get through this stronger, and why not keep on growing veg together when life goes back to normal?”

Becky Wass

At the beginning of the pandemic Becky Wass, from Falmouth, Cornwall, wasted no time in creating a postcard to pop through her neighbours’ doors asking if they needed any help, such as picking up shopping. Wass’s design read “Hello! If you are self-isolating, I can help”, and left spaces for people to fill in their name, address, phone number and possible tasks that they might need help with. It helped reach out to vulnerable people who might have otherwise felt lonely and disconnected. After 32-year-old Wass’s design was shared online with the hashtag #viralkindness it was downloaded by thousands across the UK and as far as Australia.

Molly Watts

Dave the Dog is Worried about Coronavirus is a free children’s book written by paediatric intensive care nurse Molly Watts as a way to help parents talk about the pandemic. Watts, from Southampton, was aware that many young people would feel scared as normal routines were abandoned, adults behaved strangely and the rolling news felt inescapable. She created the story to open up the conversation about the virus and provide truthful information in a reassuring, child-friendly manner. The picture book is supported by the NHS and has since been downloaded more than 20,000 times worldwide.

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