Diss has named its honoured citizens for 2016.
Owen Leeder, a 13-year-old Scole resident and Diss High School pupil, was crowned Junior Good Citizen at the Annual Town Meeting of Diss Town Council on Wednesday.
I am very happy, and I am proud for Nelson’s Journey. Without them none of this would have happenedOwen Leeder
Well-known Diss businessman Pete Gillings was named this year’s Honoured Citizen.
Owen lost his father, Greg, when he was only ten years old. Nelson’s Journey, a Norfolk-based charity which supports bereaved children in the county, was there for the youngster during his tough time.
Since then he has given something back, volunteering for Nelson’s Journey, and was awarded the Young Volunteer of the Year award at the South Norfolk Community Awards in February.
He was among a panel of youngsters who helped create Nelson’s Journey Smiles and Tears smartphone app.
Free to download and available on Android and iOS, it allows users to keep a virtual diary, provides an FAQ on how to deal with the loss of a loved one, as well as recreating activities offered by the charity such as a virtual balloon release and a memory jar.
Owen’s mother Nicola told the Diss Express: “I am incredibly proud, and the work that Nelson’s Journey do is absolutely fantastic. They are like part of the family, they have been a family to Owen.”
Owen added: “I am very happy, and I am proud for Nelson’s Journey. Without them none of this would have happened.”
Mr Gillings, 67, who runs a scrap metal business from Mission Road, is one of the most well-known personalities in the town.
He has long been a supporter of the town’s special events, from Diss Carnival to the Christmas lights switch-ons to the Royal Anglian Regiment receiving the freedom of the town in 2012. A regular columnist in the Diss Express, he was also a founder member of the Town Team.
He even managed to turn his appearance on Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me into a charity event, helping to raise £4,000 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.
Speaking at Wednesday’s event Janice Nottingham, who nominated Mr Gillings, told the audience: “He never shirks the chance to give something back.”
Mr Gillings said he was given a ‘heads up’ phone call from town clerk Deborah Sarson whether he would accept the award, should he be successful. “I could not help thinking about my mum and dad and how proud they would have been, and I cried on the phone,” he explained. “That’s the first time a girl has made me cry on the phone since I was 17!”
Mr Gillings, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with bowel cancer, added: “I would never have dreamed how nice people have been since I got this illness. When the chips are down, it is like a family.”