A TEESSIDE woman who turned a family tragedy into an inspirational movement has been recognised with an award.

In memory of her husband Russ Devereux, who died in May 2018 to suicide, mum-of-three Catherine Devereux launched the Russ Devereux Headlight Project to deliver emotional resilience programmes in Teesside schools and develop an adult suicide prevention service.

The organisation is run by an all-female team, led by Mrs Devereux, who wants to show her daughters what can be achieved out of the most traumatic of circumstances and for them to grow up not feeling ashamed of how their dad died.

In recognition of her work, Mrs Devereux was handed the Inspiring Others award at the 2019 Tees Businesswomen Awards during an emotional presentation in Wynyard Hall’s Grand Marquee.

With Mr Devereux's parents and many other family and friends looking on, the announcement of Catherine’s name brought the audience to their feet, as they applauded the tearful lawyer onto the stage.

Reflecting on the fact it was a night of awards for women, she said: “The irony is that this came from a man who was just amazing and it’s been a massive loss to our family.

“I look at Russ’s mum and dad and all his family and all our gorgeous friends who have helped us through these last 18-months.

“I honestly never thought I’d be in this position, but after what happened to Russ it’s made me realise that this sort of thing can happen to anybody.”

When asked by the event's host, BBC presenter Charlie Charlton what it meant to receive the award, Mrs Devereux said: “It’s not about me, it’s about what we’re trying to achieve for people who have gone through what we’ve gone through and if we, through our friendship groups, can in a tiny way help to teach children about mental health and to help suicide prevention, then we will have done a good job.

“I’m delighted to receive the award for my family, for Russ’s family and for all my friends who’ve supported me.

"Thank you so much for shining a spotlight on what we’re doing.”

Teesside University pro vice-chancellor Jane Turner was also given an Outstanding Contribution at the awards ceremony, organised by Middlesbrough-based Resolution Media and Publishing.

There were more tears – from the winner and audience – when the night ended with Resolution directors Martin Walker and Dave Allan presenting Professor Turner with her special award.

Pro vice-chancellor for enterprise and business engagement at Teesside University, she has been a huge advocate of the Tees Businesswomen Awards whilst building a unique girls’ mentoring scheme despite living with very late-stage ovarian cancer.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she admitted during an emotional speech. “I’m currently dealing with cancer and it’s just made me more determined to get this region where it needs to be.

“I want to thank my husband Jason – we’ve been to hell and back, and he’s been there.

“None of us know what’s around the corner, so just go out and live your lives, grab the moment, be in the moment and enjoy the lives we’ve been given.”

Afterwards, she admitted: “I had no idea so I’m gobsmacked. I’m just shaking and lost for words.

“What these two guys, Dave and Martin, have done and the momentum they’ve created for this region is just fantastic.

“These business awards are the right thing to do. We shouldn’t have to be doing this – but this is just fast-forwarding our work to get the balance for men and women in this region.”

Other winners at the Tees Businesswomen Awards 2019 – held in association with Northern Skills Group, the training and apprenticeship arm of Middlesbrough College – included Sharon Lane (Businesswoman of the Year), Jane Turner, Teesside University (Outstanding Contribution), Jacksons Law (Company of the Year), Sara Arthur, Genesis Protection Services (Best Newcomer), Ann Stonehouse, Assist Women’s Network (Lifelong Inspiration), Marcia Price, Seqens-Chemoxy (Breaking the Mould), Additional Lengths (SME of the Year), Abacus Bean (Best New Business), The Halo Project (Training & Apprenticeships) and Footprints in the Community (Charity award).

The awards were organised by Resolution Media and Publishing and the headline sponsors were the Northern Skills Group.