The inaugural Pride of the Illawarra Emergency Services awards were held on the 7th May 2011 at City Beach, Wollongong.
The event was organised by the Rotary Clubs of the Illawarra and was about acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of local Emergency Services personnel. Seven NSW emergency services (Police, Fire, Ambulance, SES, RFS, VRA and Marine Rescue) all participated in the event with nominations being called from each service. The SES (State Emergency Service) put four nominees forward for the awards.
The four nominees, their partners, friends and Service dignitaries were among the 300 people that attended the awards dinner. It was easy to see that all nominees shared a common interest and a love for those field and to be selected as a finalist in this company of people was a great honour.
As the night unfolded each finalist was presented to the audience with a short bio of their achievements being read out. Each finalist (12 in total) was presented with a certificate of achievement at this time.
After a lavish 3-course dinner, the major part of the awards night got underway with each Emergency Service being awarded their “Pride of the Illawarra” service winner. For the SES that accolade was given to me. To hear my name read out as the SES winner was one of shock, amazement and ecstatic joy. I received a nice plaque and gift voucher for winning the SES category.
There were still 2 awards remaining, the overall winner (paid) and the overall winner (volunteer). I remember sitting in my seat thinking very nervously that I had a 1 in 4 chance of winning this… Holy shit, within minutes my greatest achievement had become reality. My name had been read out again, this time as the overall winner (volunteer) for the inaugural “Pride of the Illawarra”. The shock, emotion and euphoria were far greater this time as our table erupted into applause and cheers. On stage I was presented with a larger, more impressive plaque, another gift voucher and far great recognition. This time I was asked to say a few words, which I must say I stumbled and stuttered my way through due to the emotion I was feeling.
The rest of the night seemed to float on by with me having a grin from ear to ear. Countless people came up to congratulate me on my achievement while I was never far from someone snapping a photo of me.
Since the awards night I have ridden the rollercoaster of joy that comes with such recognition. I am truly honoured to receive such an award. Volunteer of the Year has a nice ring to it.
I have to thank my wife and family, my peers for nominating me and to the Rotary Clubs of the Illawarra for having such a vision.