A 95-YEAR-OLD man who has touched thousands of people’s lives has been named as Darlington’s citizen of the year.

John Appleton, who has been organising sports events in the town since the 1950s, was named as citizen of the year at Darlington’s Stronger Community Awards.

He was unable to attend the event at the Dolphin Centre on Friday, but his award was picked up by his son Kevin.

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Hundreds of people attended the event, which was aimed at celebrating Darlington’s unsung heroes, including Darlington’s champion boxer Troy Williamson, who made an appearance to congratulate the winners.

Mr Appleton, who has also been a volunteer hospital visitor for 40 years, is the last remaining founding member of the Darlington Sports Council, organising five-a-side, badminton and other sports tournaments.

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He was also a youth leader, was involved in the Princes Trust, helped youngsters through the Duke of Edinburgh award and has helped with countless charity events.

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Seth Pearson, director of Darlington Partnerships at the council, said: “There is so much to celebrate in Darlington and these awards brought together all those who enrich the local community.

“There are people out there making a difference in all kinds of spheres and who might otherwise go unrecognised and this was all about putting the stars of Darlington on a pedestal. It was a fantastic night.”

The evening was compared by magician Tim Litchfield and entertainment was provided by The Voices of Darlington and Rachel Coad School of Dance.

This year there were three new categories.

Simon and Rachel Leadbetter, who run the Mowden Pub, won the “above and beyond” award, while Red Hall Primary School was recognised for its contribution to education.

Craig Shields, of Craig Shield’s Fruit and Veg, was named as “Covid hero”.

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A special stronger communities award was presented to Sarah Rose, who has been supporting residents in Skerne Park.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, who presented the award, said: “We have seen great resilience and determination in communities across the town in the past year.

“Many people have gone the extra mile to help others since the pandemic began, and our awards are a great way to pay tribute to them and to celebrate all the good work being done throughout Darlington.”

“Every day, I meet with people and organisations who go above and beyond to support our town and I continue to be inspired by the stories I hear. It makes me immensely proud to live in our fantastic town.”

Other winners include: The Bread & Butter Thing (Bringing Success to Darlington), On Track Learning (Business Contribution to the Community), Graham Hall (Public Service Hero), Elena Capbun (Academic Excellence), Mario Krupa (Vocational Excellence), Rachael Brown (Exceptional Student), Red Hall Primary School (Contribution to Education), Darlington Forest Project (Contribution to the Environment), Darlington Film Club (Contribution to the Arts), Joanne Hammond (Contribution to the Community), Sharon and Craig Graham of Mount Pleasant Rangers Football Club (Contribution to Sport), Darlington Cricket Club Under 17s and Morgan Curtis (Performance in Sport), Michael Taylor (Exceptional Volunteer), Ethan Partis (Exceptional Young Volunteer), Daisy Simpson (Young Citizen of the Year) and Alasdair MacConachie of Sherwoods Vauxhall who was given a commendation for his contribution to the town.

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