This time of year is always particularly poignant for Evan's Big Journey. Of course, there are reminders of events and occasions in pretty much every month but not are quite as vivid as the day that Ev switched on the Silsden Christmas lights in 2010 and the band played, and the snow came, and it was nearly time to travel to St Louis. Unfortunately this year the scene wasn't as Dickensian, but it was still a nice time, spent in the company of good friends and reminded us again that we needed to get sorted for Christmas.
However, there was another big pre-Christmas event to attend. As I mentioned previously, Evan had been shortlisted in the "Youngster of the Year" category at the "Yorkshire Young Achievers Awards" but due to a hectic work, school and home schedule (nothing much ever changes) we hadnt had much chance to fully consider this - although it was clearly a great honour to be included. The last minute rush extended to the hours before we were due to be set off and, as was the case at the ball, we were getting ready right up to, and past, the time we were due to set off.
On the way back from dropping Sam off I was reminded of the day of the ball when I had to drive back home from Skipton and felt the same mix of nervous excitement, adrenaline and pride. I like a quiet, boring, existence but when Evan's Big Journey is back in town, I get a nice warm feeling, usually accompanied with a daft grin. Showtime.
A good friend (who previously featured in the fundraising wearing nothing but a wet-suit) had offered to chauffeur us to the event - a black tie event in Leeds - which was a great start to the evening and made it all the more stress-free. We nervously congregated in the reception area sipping champagne (lemonade for Ev and OJ for Garry) looking around at the other guests and trying to figure out how it might go. I'll be honest, Ev is driven and competitive - that's what makes him achieve what he does - and it's fair to say he isnt (as most 8yr old boys arent) the most comfortable at losing. So we had spent a lot of time reassuring him that it was the honour of being nominated that counted (which it definitely was) but we also practised his "gracious loser" face.
As we met the other guests on our table, we were grateful to notice in the schedule that Ev's award was first up. There was an introduction and then the presenters (Duncan Wood and Christine Talbot of Calendar ITV fame) took to the stage. Christine is recovering from a long illness herself and the whole tone of the night was positiveness in adversity. Ev wanted help with something and then I tried to sort the camera to pass to Garry in case Ev was lucky enough to win just as I heard the words "the winner of our first award is an eight year old boy from Silsden.....". There followed a piece on video and the words hardly had chance to register, a chance for Loup and I to glance at each other with a mix of pride and amazement, before we had to accompany him on stage to collect his award. A red carpet, a collection of photographers and applause ringing in our ears, before being whisked offstage.
We then had a few more official photographs and a quick chat with Duncan which would be on TV the next day and I returned to our table while Loup and Ev "powdered their noses". The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur, there were so many lovely people to speak to, but the stars were the other winners who were so, so inspiring.
Yorkshire Evening Post article
I guess, no - I know, that Evan's is quite rightly in that company but when you live with someone you perhaps dont always see it as clearly each day. Each of the winners was incredibly special but the "Unsung Hero" was Dr Kate Granger who, despite fighting a losing battle with a terminal illness, battles back to the point where you can do nothing but sit, tears in your eyes, and know that she has actually won, however temporary. We are lucky that Evan has the opportunity to do something special, an opportunity that many people dont get, an opportunity that we have to never let go.
And in the same way that the sands of time poured to a final grain in St Louis and in Trafalgar Square, and so many other places in between, so it was time for our carriage to arrive. Ev had lasted to the end of the night. An amazing night, and an amazing end to another amazing year.
You could almost write a book about it.....