THERE have been many moving moments while hosting the Local Heroes Awards over the past 18 years, but this year’s ceremony was the most emotional yet.

Matt Hadden, 28, from Dalton-on-Tees, near Darlington, was a finalist in recognition of his commitment to sport and charity despite being diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. The highlight of his remarkable achievements was completing the Great North Run in September, despite enduring extensive chemotherapy and having had a leg amputated.

In doing so, Matt and his team – including mum Sarah and sister Helena – raised £8,000 for Maggies, a support centre at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

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Matt was so proud to have been chosen as a finalist for last Thursday’s awards at Wynyard Hall. However, with his condition deteriorating rapidly, it became increasingly unlikely that he would be able to attend.

Three days before the event, I visited his home and filmed a message from him, to be used in the event of him not being well enough to be there in person.

Despite being attached to an oxygen machine and needing time to muster the energy to speak, Matt filmed an inspirational message in which he explained how “humbled” he was to be nominated, and wished the other finalists good luck. As I left the room, he gave a thumbs up and said: “See you on Thursday.”

Sadly, Matt’s mum called on the morning of the awards to say that Matt had passed away the previous night. However, she went on to make it clear it was the family’s wish for the video message to still be shown at the ceremony.

Having talked to Matt a few days earlier, I had no doubt he would have wanted the awards to go ahead just as they’d been planned. So, on the night, his category – the Remarkable Achievement Award – was won by former soldier James Rose, 30, from Middlesbrough, who had achieved incredible sporting goals despite losing both legs in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan.

It was entirely right that James was properly recognised but once his award had been presented, Matt’s good luck video was played and the audience, including his sister and other loved ones, stood to give him a minute’s applause.

It was an unforgettable moment and my thanks to Matt’s family for giving their blessing for such a poignant tribute to go ahead in the midst of grief that was less than 24 hours old.

THE day after the Local Heroes Awards, the head of fundraising and communications for the Bone Cancer Research Trust, Mat Cottle-Shaw, got in touch to say he wanted to send a condolence card to Matt Hadden’s family.

He explained that Matt had turned up at the trust’s offices shortly before taking part in the Great North Run in September. Despite knowing his condition was untreatable, he’d announced that he wanted to take part in a Bone Cancer Awareness Week the following month.

By the time October came, Matt was too unwell to take part but he insisted to the team at the trust that he was determined to help next year.

“It was obvious how ill he was and yet he was still looking forward, still planning ahead, still being positive, and we all found that so inspirational,” said Mr Cottle-Shaw.

Matt Hadden, Local Hero, rest in peace.

A STRONG start is vital at a prestigious event attended by hundreds of people.

It is, therefore, no coincidence that the Local Heroes Awards 2017 began with a special award for a little girl called Tempy Pattinson.

Five-year-old Tempy won the first award of the night for her amazing support for Help For Heroes.

It all began when she saw people selling poppies and she asked her mum why. When remembrance was explained to her, she said she wanted to do something to show soldiers how much she cares about them. She went on to raise £350 for the charity by completing a 100 metre swim, and a triathlon.

As a result, she was invited to appear in a Help For Heroes video with veteran Simon Brown, who was blinded when he was shot by an Iraqi sniper. The film went viral on YouTube, with more than 100 million views, and Tempy melted hearts the world over. She then completed the Darlington Park Run over five kilometres and smashed her target of raising £2,000.

During the interval at the awards, Tempy came over for a chat.

“Are you pleased with your award?” I asked.

“Yes, very,” she replied, before pausing and asking: “On a different subject, I don’t suppose you have any suggestions of what I might get my Mummy for Christmas?”

Believe me, this is no ordinary little girl.