THERE have been many moving moments while hosting the Local Heroes Awards over the past 18 years, but this year's event 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 fund-raising despite being diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. The highlight of his remarkable achievements was completing the Great North Run in September, despite 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.

Loading article content

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 in talked about how "humbled" he was to be nominated, and wished the other finalists good luck. As I left the room, his final words were: "See you on Thursday."

Sadly, Matt's mum called me on Thursday morning to tell me that Matt had passed away the previous night but said it was the family's wish for the video message to still be shown at the awards ceremony.

Having talked to Matt, it was very clear to me that he would have wanted the awards to go ahead just as they'd been planned, without any changes. 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 while serving in Afghanistan.

It was right that James was properly recognised, but Matt's good luck video was then played before the audience, including his sister Helena 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 their grief.

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.

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 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, and we all found that so inspirational," said Mr Cottle-Shaw.

Matt Hadden, Local Hero, rest in peace.

A STRONG start is all-important at an 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 began when she asked her Mum why people were selling poppies. When remembrance was explained to her, she said she wanted to do something to show soldiers how much she cares about them, and went on raise £350 for the charity by completing a 100 metre swim, and a triathlon. As a result, she was invited to appear in a 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 and I had 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 five-year-old.