Searching for Coleraine’s Unsung Heroes

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th June 2015 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards at the Culloden Hotel 
Overall Spirit of NI Winner - Louis Walsh, Sunday Life Editor Martin Breen, Specsavers' Tony McGinn and Overall Winner Jay Beatty

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th June 2015 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards at the Culloden Hotel Overall Spirit of NI Winner - Louis Walsh, Sunday Life Editor Martin Breen, Specsavers' Tony McGinn and Overall Winner Jay Beatty

The search is on for Coleraine’s unsung heroes.

The 2016 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers has just been launched and now judges want to hear who you think deserves to be crowned the Spirit of Northern Ireland in 2016.

This annual awards ceremony, which will again be televised by UTV, seeks to honour all those who make a real difference everyday across Northern Ireland.

Last year’s overall Spirit of Northern Ireland winner was Lurgan lad Jay Beatty who stole both fans and players hearts when he won the Scottish Premiership goal of the month award. Celtic-mad Jay who has Downs Syndrome was presented with the Overall Spirit of Northern Ireland award by former X-Factor judge Louis Walsh, for his work in raising awareness of the condition. Back in February 2015, Jay received 97 percent of the votes for his spectacular half-time shot, which hit the back of the net during Celtic’s victory against Hamilton in the Scottish Premiership ‘Goal of the Month’ award.

This year, organisers have introduced a range of new categories to help ensure that all of the remarkable and inspirational people living in local communities get the acknowledgement they deserve for the selfless contribution they make to life in Northern Ireland.

Judges are searching to honour winners across ten categories in total which are now open for nomination. This year’s categories are: Unsung Hero, Overcoming Adversity, Spirit of Youth, 999 Hero, Charity Champion, Spirit of Health, Spirit of Education, Caring Spirit Award, Spirit of Sport and Overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award.

The unique Northern Ireland-wide search will give recognition to those whose good deeds have previously gone mostly unnoticed - ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to help others and people whose uplifting stories of selfless acts will touch the hearts of all who read them.

Whether for demonstrating a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, enterprise, courage or devotion, all nominations are welcome. All those who submit nominations will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a £150 eye-care voucher and a VIP experience at the awards, including an overnight stay at the Culloden Estate & Spa, courtesy of Specsavers.

The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers will culminate with a glitzy grand final taking place on Friday, May 27 at the luxurious five-star Culloden Estate & Spa resort in Holywood.

Each year, local celebrities flock to this event, eager to hear and support the remarkable achievements of the finalists. Last year, the audience was filled with a host of household names including stars of Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Holby City, Game of Thrones and Northern Ireland’s very own gripping drama The Fall, who all mingled with the nominees and stopped for the obligatory selfie.

Specsavers Northern Ireland Chairman Brian O’Kane said: ‘We very proud to once again be sponsors of the wonderful Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. We have been involved with this fantastic event since 2011 and are already looking forward to celebrating Northern Ireland’s unsung heroes. Each year, we are totally blown away and moved by the stories of courage, kindness and selflessness that emerge from these awards. The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards encapsulate all that is good about this fantastic part of the world and for us it’s important to recognise truly exceptional individuals and give them an evening they will always remember.”

To make a nomination, simply explain in 50-100 words why this person is worthy of a Spirit of Northern Ireland Award and email to spiritofniawards@sundaylife.co.uk or fill in a form available at a local Specsavers store.

The closing date for nominations is Friday April 22.