EVEN before Brandon Holloway hugged his mother on the big screen, the audience could not help being touched by his heartwarming story.

The fantastic efforts of the students from the Hummersknott 900 cycling club barely stood a chance against the tenyear- old in the young person’s contribution to the community category, part of the Best of Darlington Awards 2010.

And not long after that, Brandon was crowned a very deserving winner of Young Citizen of the Year.

Equally meritorious were the efforts of cyclist Steve Davies, winner of the adult Citizen of the Year accolade.

Their stories, and those of the other 37 shortlisted candidates, including individuals, couples, businesses, charities, school groups and parish councils, can be read in the following pages.

The Best of Darlington Awards started in 2006 to honour the unsung heroes of people who live and work in the town across a range of categories.

An audience of 300, including candidates, their nominators and judges, enjoyed a four-hour ceremony at Darlington College – one of the two principal sponsors – that included entertainment from musical talent from the town.

The event was compered by The Northern Echo editor Peter Barron, a member of the judging panel, who started the evening by saying: “This year is the fifth year of the Best of Darlington and every year it gets bigger and better.

“These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

He was joined on stage by Tim Grant, from Darlington College, and Ken Greenfield, chairman of NHS Darlington, the event’s other main sponsor.

Mr Grant said: “These awards recognise the achievement of real people, working, living and learning in our community.”

Mr Greenfield said: “The awards reflect on what is good in Darlington and what makes it a marvellous town.”

All the winners received a cash prize, a copy of their citation and a certificate.

Mr Davies, a member of Ferryhill Wheelers for 30 years, won the contribution to sport award for a “impressive” year.

He won 20 medals ranging from the North-East division events to the World Masters Games, held in Australia. His nominator, Howard Jones, compared him to the more famous Bradley Wiggins.

He said: “I’m delighted, and surprised. When I noticed there was a citizen of the year award, I thought it would go to someone doing charity work or something like that, so when my name was called out, it was a great surprise and great honour.”

Brandon, a pupil at Mount Pleasant Primary School, was described by his nominator, Councillor Doris Jones, as a “very special boy who has a very caring and responsible attitude towards his family and surroundings”.

He cleans up his school ground in his own time to help keep the area looking tidy, and this despite the fact he looks after his family, including his sister, who has cerebral palsy, his brother, who was involved in a car accident, his father, who is disabled, and his mother who is being tested for a blood disorder.

Brandon said: “I didn’t know it was coming – I’m speechless.”

Also among the main winners was Brian Dobinson – the awards’ unsung hero.

Mr Dobinson was both a nominee and a nominator for the sport award. He has been heavily involved with badminton and cricket in the town and with the Darlington Sports Winner’s Scheme for more than 15 years.

He said: “It was amazing because I buried my father, Ken, yesterday and I want to dedicate the award tonight to my dad as he was a great sportsman in the town as a lot of people know.”