Today the LBO can exclusively reveal who will be turning on Leighton Buzzard’s Christmas lights at the end of this month – and it was a tough choice for the judges after an avalanche of worthy nominations.
Since we launched the search - in partnership with business group LB First and Leighton-Linslade Town Council - for a worthy community champion to launch the 2019 Christmas Festival by flicking the switch on Friday, November 29, we were inundated with suggestions from readers.
So much so that those that didn’t get picked will all receive an honourable mention in next week’s paper, and, you never know, there’s always next year!
In recent times festival organisers have sourced a well-known celebrity to turn on the lights and set off the fireworks. But in 2017 a more local approach was adopted when Leighton Buzzard resident, and Britain’s oldest poppy seller, Wally Randall, now 104, was approached to be guest of honour at the ceremony.
It was decided that the idea of using a local VIP had been so popular that organisers should look to the community again going forward.
So who have the judges picked?
First up in five-year-old Freya Kinloch, who was nominated by Chloe Dowden for being such a sweet girl for looking after her son at school despite the difficult time the family has gone through this year with the loss of her dad Brett Kinloch 31, who worked as head of PE at Cedars Upper School.
Chloe wrote: “In February the Kinloch’s world was shattered when their beloved father Brett lost his battle with a brain tumour aged just 31.
“Sadly he lost his battle the same day his youngest daughter Ariya came into the world.
“I will never know how Nicola found the strength to give birth, knowing she would not have much time left with Brett. Since his death, Nicola has been a truly amazing mum to her three beautiful daughters and continues to be such a kind friend to everyone around her when her own world has been turned upside down.
“They are a Leighton Buzzard family and Brett worked as head of PE at Cedars Upper School so they are well known in the town.
“Freya, their eldest daughter, is in Reception with my son and he always talks about how Freya looks after him, she is such a sweet girl. She is now 5 and turning on the lights would be an amazing memory for all of them in what has been such a difficult year.”
The next choice is Joshua Cullip, who was nominated by his mum Jodie O’Grady.
Joshua, despite having a rare degenerative life limiting disease called Niemann-Pick took part in the fourth annual Children in Need Countryfile Ramble star last year climbing the Isle of Skye with Matt Baker.
He recently celebrated his 13th birthday, having been told by doctors he would not survive past five years old.
His Facebook page www.facebook.com/just4josh raises awareness about Niemann-Pick and recently posted: “Well today is Joshua’s huge 13th birthday. At eight months old being told Josh would not survive till five, to get to this milestone is huge. We have a few dreaded symptoms but nothing that effects his quality of life at all ,
“This child in his 13 years has experienced things other people wouldn’t in their whole lifetime.
“We have shared his story and fundraised and taken part in clinical trials, helping many other children and families!
“Our story has helped many new diagnosed families. Last year climbing the Isle of Skye mountain, his story alone raised millions.
“Josh, the card you were dealt was a cruel one but how you have rocked a devastating illness and carried on to change lives and not letting anything get in your way. We are proud beyond words.”
Our final choice are couple Sally and David Allsopp, who were nominated by Amanda White, Elleesa Rushby and Tom Scudamore.
They have been running Leighton Buzzard Children’s Theatre for over 25 years and raised more than £90,000 for cancer charities and last year raised £5,000 to sponsor a puppy for Dogs for Good. They take the children to retirement homes at Christmas and have performed at other town events such as the Carnival and May Fayre.
Tom wrote: “Sally has gone above and beyond over the last 25 years to make her company an inclusive, fun, and incredibly special place to be a part of, for the children who attend the group, and those, like me, who help out there.
“As the drama teacher at Vandyke, Sally is dedicated to her work but, most importantly, the welfare of and progress made by her students. I have never met somebody so committed, so hardworking, and so encouraging as a mentor and a role model to young people.
“Countless children have been guided by Sally in educational and community contexts for the last three decades, and I am thankful myself to Sally for making everyone who works with her feel a valuable part of the projects and progress she is working us towards achieving.”
Commenting on the nominations and selection process, LB First chairman and judge Gennaro Borrelli said: “This year has been harder than ever before.
“We had a fantastic response from local residents with so many nominations and after much deliberation the choice was made.
“Each and every nomination was carefully considered and was worthy which is what made it so extremely difficult and is why we have decided to acknowledge all of the nominations in next week’s LBO by listing and featuring them as well.
“Our thanks and appreciation to everyone who took the time to send in their nominations and we do hope you will all join us on November 29 for the switching on of our Christmas lights ceremony and show your support for these remarkable and very worthy Community Champion VIP guests.”