That was a champion night out

THEY'RE winners in a champions league of their own.

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More than 400 people saluted our Champions
More than 400 people saluted our Champions

The Glasgow cabbies who go that extra mile for needy kids – making a 70-mile round-trip annually for the last 67 years – brought the curtain down on the Glasgow Community Champion Awards 2012.

Some of the 150 drivers who decorate their cabs to transport 500 children with special needs to Troon last night collected the Lord Provost Award for Community Service.

Glasgow Taxi Outing Fund became Lord Provost Sadie Docherty's first recipients of the title, after she took over from Bob Winter in May.

Mrs Docherty, who pledged to join the excursion next year, said: "It's high time they received this well-deserved award."

Committee member and taxi driver Stephen Lalley, 45, from Croftfoot, said: "When you see the children and the fun they have, it's a no-brainer - you've just got to take part."

More than 400 people braved freezing temperatures to raise the roof of the City Chambers as they toasted Glasgow's overall community champions, or "the best of the best".

Some 43 winners drawn from five ceremonies held throughout the year travelled from East, West, North and South to last night's Grand Final.

It began with a civic reception in the Satinwood Suite and Picture Gallery as winners and their guests mingled with representatives from the awards partners, Strathclyde Police, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Community Planning Partnership, GHA and the Evening Times.

Guests then took their seats in the Banqueting Hall, where they were welcomed by host and broadcaster Cathy MacDonald.

A film showing highlights of the five events leading up to the final was greeted by a chorus of cheers and applause.

And the plush carpet didn't dampen the feet-stomping drumroll as envelopes containing the winners' names were opened.

Fundraising for charity was a popular theme among three of the six contenders for the overall Young Award.

Talitha Gutsa, 14, a third-year pupil and member of Hillhead High School Charities Committee, said: "This was our 20th year, so we passed the £100,000 mark.

"To be a finalist is really good – just to be here is amazing."

All nine people who launched the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Volunteers at the Bridge in Easterhouse were proud to represent the East in the Team category – especially now that they can boast to have expanded their number to 90.

Information officer Gillian O'Donnell said: "It's lovely to see all these people here who are giving up their time to help others."

Last night's event included the award of the first overall Sport trophy, a new category for 2012 to mark the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

They might have lost out on the city-wide trophy, but the members of Pollok United Soccer Academy were happy to cheer on other finalists.

Vice-chairman Andy Elliott combines volunteering with the football academy with his paid role as a housing officer in Mosspark, through which he works closely with Team finalists Craigton Residents Action Group and Public Service finalist Lesley McGregor.

The 41-year-old from Cardonald said: "Over the last 18 months we've grown from having only one team to now having about 230 boys and girls."

Several award presenters made special mention of Strathclyde Fire & Rescue's chief officer Brian Sweeney, who was attending his final Community Champions event before his retirement next year.

He said: "The awards will always have a very special place in my heart."

He went on to encourage the audience to cheer loudly for South East Senior winners Gina Greig, 64, and Florence Goudie, 68, who have chalked up more than 90 years of voluntary service to the Girls' Brigade in Castlemilk.

Mrs Greig, who missed the event in June, said: "This is an honour. It's lovely to be acknowledged for what you do."

Drumchapel High head teacher Robert Williamson, whose school won the Uniform Services Award in the West & Central area, said partnership working with Strathclyde Police and Strathclyde Fire & Rescue on the Drumchapel CSI forensic project has given his pupils invaluable skills.

He added: "The kids are really enthused by it and I think this type of event gives them an incentive to stretch as far as they can."

Evening Times editor Tony Carlin acknowledged all the assembled champions for "the selfless work they do to make this city a better place" in his vote of thanks before he introduced entertainment from our Glasgow's Star Turn winner, Elissa Crorken, 19.

The powerful vocalist from Sandyhills sang Eva Cassidy's Over The Rainbow and Etta James' At Last.

It was a special night for Elissa's dad, Tony , formerly a Glasgow cab driver for 26 years who participated regularly in the outing to Troon.

The 52-year-old said: "This is fantastic – what the taxi drivers put into it through the year to raise the funds to take the kids away is great."

Host Cathy MacDonald summed up the event, saying: "This event really reminds you of the work that's done in communities that very often escapes most of us."

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