Meet the Pride of Cumbria’s three Covid Community Champions who helped support their neighbours, kept spirits lifted and inspired others.

Simone Hetherington of Imagination Parties, Marina Mackay, and Kerry Irving with his inspirational adventures with his beloved spaniel Max, which were documented on his Facebook page Max in the Lake District, are the three finalists for this category.

Max, from Keswick, was a lifeline to Mr Irving, who adopted the canine after a car accident in 2006 left him in excruciating pain, both physically and mentally.

His fundraising work and adventures captured the hearts of people worldwide and he raised more than £450,000 for charities, alongside fellow pooches Paddy and Harry.

Sadly, Max died in April.

Marina Mackay, from Carlisle, who owns Edmondsons Florist, was nominated by her husband for her community work, including her help in creating volunteer group Leave a Light On (LALO) Community Support & Wildlife Rescue.

During Storm Desmond, she handed out supplies, helped people find accommodation, and fed hundreds of people.

And during the pandemic, she helped people with food parcels, gifts and continues her animal rescue work.

She said she was ‘shocked’ to find out she had been nominated.

“It’s been a rollercoaster few years,” she said.

“There’s been quite a few emergency situations, people saying they haven’t got anything for their child’s birthday so I’ve gone and bought cakes to help out.

“A lot has gone on.

“It started with the floods, we helped with supplies, we did Christmas meals, presents and we helped so many people with housing and clothes.

“And we’ve always done animal rescue as well.

“When Covid hit we launched Leave a Light On and we were doing food parcels, sorting accommodation, birthday presents, health projects and sorting puzzle books.

“And now coming out of Covid we still do a lot for the NHS, we still do food hampers, there’s a lot still going on in the background.

“I’m always packing food parcels in the back.”

While Simone Hetherington, who runs her own children’s entertainment business Imagination Parties, kept children’s spirits up during the pandemic with quizzes, video messages, letters, and hosted free socially distanced events as her alter ego Cookie, while looking after her seven children.

“I found that it was all so scary and confusing even for adults so I knew that it would have a huge impact on children especially once their schooling was distributed as well,” she said.

“I also knew from a parent's point of view how difficult it was to reassure children when no one really knew what the situation was.

“My aim was to let children know that it was okay to be scared and unsure of what was going on, and that us grown-ups were feeling the same and that they should feel they can ask questions and we would do our best to answer them.

“I have been so used to entertaining children that us suddenly not being able to do so did throw us a little, so we wanted to try and do something for the local children whilst also keeping them safe.”