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Highland Heroes salutes extraordinary people doing extraordinary things

By Andrew Dixon

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David MacRae with host Nicky Marr. Picture: James Mackenzie
David MacRae with host Nicky Marr. Picture: James Mackenzie

The very best of the region’s unsung heroes have been recognised at a celebration in Inverness.

Some 400 people were at the Drumossie Hotel last night for the annual Highland Heroes event – a special occasion staged by Highland News and Media to recognise those among us who may not otherwise receive such recognition.

It was an emotional evening of tears – some joy, some sadness – as well as laughter, entertainment, fabulous food and drink, and great camaraderie as more than a dozen awards were handed out.

Community champion David MacRae, of Inverness, was crowned hero of heroes. He has inspired a team to provide gift bags for children, pensioners, people with disabilities, people who are homeless, the food banks and Raigmore Hospital.

A standing ovation for David MacRae. Picture: James Mackenzie
A standing ovation for David MacRae. Picture: James Mackenzie

The 59-year-old's efforts, while having multiple sclerosis are truly amazing, and so are those of all the other winners, which included outstanding young people such as 14-year-old Vilis Forstmanis, of Inverness, who has shown fighting spirit in a battle with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia to continue his passion for martial arts, collecting a gold medal in parakarate while competing in his wheelchair.

Vilis, and the four other finalists in the brave child category, were also given family tickets to this summer's Belladrum music festival courtesy of the host sponsor.

After being nominated by the public, the finalists were selected by a panel of judges prior to a public vote to choose the winners with more than 14,000 people engaged in the process by having a say.

The amazing response was matched by the awesome individuals and organisations making each shortlist, with Sarah Fyfe, head of content and audience at Highland News and Media, stressing this was a celebration of courage and kindness.

While they may be modest and humble, these are the people that make communities better and stitch society together.

Greame Bell, general manager of headline sponsor Inverness Airport, said the event showed how incredible people can be. "There are so many people going way over and above what some would do in normal day life and it's just amazing – and without question, everybody who has been nominated is a winner," he said.

Event host Nicky Marr started the evening by thanking Caoimhe Simpson for her rendition of Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out for a Hero backed by dancers from Performers UK. The singer was also celebrating later when being part of HALO, which was named charitable organisation of the year.

There were an array of superheroes/villains to welcome guests including Batman and a kilted Stormtrooper.

More entertainment came from the Men of Motown, who got the audience on their feet with her renditions of some classics including My Girl by The Temptations.

One of the most moving moments of the ceremony came when Ron Williamson, founder of the mental health charity Mikeysline, was given an honourable mention.

The 74-year-old helped set up Mikeysline just over eight years ago following the death of his nephew Michael "Mikey" Williamson (23) who died at his Inverness home in 2015 – two days after his friend, Martin Shaw, had also been found dead.

Ron died in December, leaving a tremendous legacy in his nephew's name.

This prompted a spontaneous standing ovation, which was repeated for overall winner Mr MacRae where the audience – and all the heroes among them – showed respect and appreciation in equal measure, first when he was named community champion and later when he was hailed hero of heroes.

Keep an eye on our website this weekend for more on the awards.

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