Meet the heroes who kept us safe through the Covid crisis

Here at DevonLive, we are continuing to celebrate our Covid Heroes – the people you said have gone above and beyond to support others this year.

There’s perhaps never been a more important – and challenging time – to stay fit and healthy. And huge numbers of people across Devon have been working hard to keep us safe and well this year, from NHS staff, to care workers, gym instructors to mental health volunteers.

These are some of your nominations celebrating those who have helped us to stay well or to improve our health this year.

Devon Freewheelers

Daniel Lavery
(Image: Penny Cross / Plymouth Live)

Devon Freewheelers – also known as the Devon Blood Bikes – have been providing their services to the people of Devon since 2009.

They are all volunteers and work 24 hours a day 7 days a week to support the NHS by delivering blood, medical samples and other vital medical supplies to patients and NHS services throughout Devon.

This year they have continued their essential work, with riders such as Andy Southard, taking annual leave to provide extra help during the pandemic.

The team has also supported the drive-through Covid testing centre at Exeter’s Sandy Park this year.

They’ve received a Covid Heroes nomination for helping an older couple who were isolating to receive their prescriptions.

Hannah Cooke

Hannah works in a hospital. Her nomination praised her for always having “a ready smile, working at the hospital and managing three young children.

Hannah’s nomination added: “Her long-awaited wedding was cancelled in August, but she soldiers on without complaint.”

Becca Sylvester and the Safe Place volunteers

The team from Safe Place
The team from Safe Place

Becca set up the mental health support group Safe Place. The group has provided mental health support to people in several ways, including online, by delivering food parcels and well-being walks when it was possible to do so.

Becca and the team have received multiple nominations for their work. One said: “They were there for me when no one else was.”

Another described Becca as “fantastic”, and her team were also nominated for giving up their time ‘helping people build themselves up after losing jobs and struggling mentally throughout the pandemic.’

“They have been a massive help to me throughout both lockdowns, and in-between too”, said one nomination, “there is always someone on hand to help and support you throughout your difficult period within your life, so thank you, Becca and team.”

The Adult Social Care Team based in Exmouth Hospital Annexe

The team of occupational therapists and social care assessors have been described as heroes “because, throughout this pandemic year, they have put the needs of the most vulnerable people in our community above their own needs. They adopted 7 days working without complaint.

“They have continued to carry out urgent assessments of those in most need, without any complaint, often working extra hours. They have helped neighbours, supported each other and made themselves available when anyone in our community needed them.

“They all went above and beyond what was expected of them.” Their nominating manager added: “I am very proud to manage them all and want to send a big thank you from all of our community to them.”

The staff of the Brixham Ward, Brixham Community Hospital

The staff have been soldiering on throughout the pandemic
(Image: Brixham Hospital staff)

For soldering on throughout the Covid crisis, working 13-hour shifts and facing isolation from loved ones, the team have well and truly earned their nomination.

Katie Thomas

Katie Thomas is the owner of Good Vibes Gym in Exeter. Her nomination said: “Throughout lockdown, she created an amazing online community with her Good Vibes team to teach classes online, she sent cards and motivational messages to us all and had a plan ready for this new lockdown.

“She has allowed her members to loan equipment to help keep us motivated during both lockdowns and meet our fitness goals and is just a genuinely amazing person.

“She shares local businesses online and is dedicated to promoting small businesses in the area. Her small business has had to adapt to survive this year, and her enthusiasm and dedication is inspiring.”

Dr Finola O’Neill

GP Finola ONeill
(Image: Finola ONeill)

Dr O’Neill is a GP based in North Devon. Her nomination said she has: “Devoted herself to the care and protection of patients and the wider community, far beyond her working practice.”

Her nomination continued: “Apart from her clinical duties as a GP and with Devon Doc, she worked every weekend during lockdown to ensure patients had the correct treatment and support from the early stages of the pandemic.”

She has also been praised for advising other healthcare professionals and for helping to organise personal protective equipment.

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Lucy Minto

Lucy was nominated for her work helping Torbay patients after she was redeployed from the eye clinic to a Covid nursing role. Her nomination said: “She went above and beyond to aid those in need.”

Dame Hannah Rogers Trust staff

They have been nominated for taking care of young disabled people during this difficult time, “all the staff have amused them and constantly smiled and tried to find things to do with them they are amazing as staff and a beautiful charity.” Their nomination contained: “I can’t believe as I video call my our daughter most days people are still smiling, thank you, Dame Hannah.

“They have kept the young adults safe and well throughout this time as well as keeping them entertained with a variety of activities whilst they have been unable to go to their community activities and home to see families.”

Leanne Bierton

Leanne Bierton
Leanne Bierton
(Image: Matt Carter)

Leanne is a personal trainer in Paignton. She received several nominations for helping people get fit this year, including being an advocate for mental health. One of her nominations said: “She is one of the most selfless people I have ever met and has gone above and beyond what any normal personal instructor does. I, for one, would not have coped the last 6 months without her endless support and encouragement. I truly believe she deserves the recognition for everything she does because I have seen first hand how many lives she had changed during this time.”

An NHS worker also praised Leanne for helping her to understand self-care.

Nadine Pearcey

Nadine Pearcey

Nadine works in a care home. Her brother Peter said: “She is the most caring person in the world. She has the biggest heart I’ve ever known. There is no way she would give up on anyone. To me, she’s an angel.”

Emma kessie fewins and Rich Hill

The duo have been praised for keeping Exeter’s Heavitree Running group going virtually all through the lockdown. They have also organised virtual runs that raise money for local charities and have collected goods for the food bank.

Kate Parker

Kate Parker
(Image: Cleo Clayton)

Kate is a health care assistant in Tiverton. Her daughter Cleo nominated her “amazing” mum for working through the pandemic.

Guy Edwards and the HealthScape team

Guy and the HealthScape team have been described as heroes to the people of Torbay. They provide a sea-swimming group which their nomination said has helped many people struggling with depression, loneliness, or disability-related problems.

It continued: “The group is all-inclusive and encouraging. It is great to be supported through the difficulties of lockdown, and for many, this group has literally been life-changing.”

Lorraine Beel

Lorraine’s nomination said that she has worked tirelessly to keep all members of Titans netball club in Barnstaple engaged during the whole Covid crisis.”

“The amount of work involved in organising all this, including finding suitable venues around North Devon, arranging coaches, implementing Covid regulations cannot be underestimated.

“I think all members of Titans would agree that Lorraine has kept us all going through what has been a difficult time. She has kept in contact with all members throughout. As a Titans netball club member myself and as a parent of other members I believe Lorraine has been key in improving the health and mental wellbeing of a large number of residents of North Devon.”

All the staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital

Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital
Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital

A nomination for every staff member working at the hospital praised their sacrifices and hard work under pressure.

Ben Bryant

Ben raised £9000 single-handedly through a personal Facebook campaign and then South Devon College supported him to produce face shields for the NHS. He lives in Paignton.

The staff at Dart Ward Totnes Hospital

The staff have gained a nomination for bravely working through the pandemic, their nomination said despite their fears “the whole team were fantastic, as were the leaders.”

Lisette Johnston

Lisette was nominated for volunteering to work at a hospital intensive care unit and her work helping Covid patients.

Devon Live