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Meet our 2020 Heroes | Oxford Street Christmas Lights

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On Oxford Street this Christmas we are asking you to nominate your 2020 heroes to help us spread gratitude for all the amazing acts of those heroes who stepped up this year to help others in need during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are highlighting one hero in our Christmas lights each week as their name becomes a part of our ‘To London with love’ poem which is on repeat in our festive lights display.

Meet Our 2020 Heroes

Anis Ali

2020 heroes - Anis Ali

Our first 2020 hero with their name shining bright in our Christmas lights is Anis Ali. Anis was nominated by the Royal Voluntary service for his amazing work as an NHS responder. Anis donated the most hours out of any of the volunteers in London during the pandemic. He completed an incredible 733 tasks since March, all whilst also continuing his day job driving the Great Western Railway train to Heathrow.

This is what Mr Ali had to say:

“We take so many things for granted. Some people don’t have anyone at all they can talk to and it’s such a difficult time for people. I was desperate to do something to help and I will continue to do my bit for as long as I am needed. Having the chance to get to know people in my community and support the NHS at this difficult time has been the best opportunity I’ve ever had and I would love to encourage other people to volunteer as I have. ”

A new 2020 hero will be recognised and celebrated each week. Their name will appear in the Christmas lights on a Monday and stay up for 7 days. If you know someone who deserves to be acknowledged for their contribution to their community, nominate your 2020 hero today.

 

Jay Flynn

This is Jay, he was nominated by Tracey for his amazing effort of raising over £750,000 for charity through his virtual pub quiz that launched after his pub had to close in March due to Covid-19. We caught up with Jay to find out more.

Can you tell us more about your Virtual Pub quiz and how it started? What inspired you to create it?

The quiz started as a local quiz just to virtually keep people entertained during the first lockdown. It swiftly went viral and the first one saw over 500k people interested in the event! The community that was born out of it said we were in a great position to help out charities in their time of need and because of the generosity of the community, we went on to raise over £750,000 for various charities, including Connection at At Martin’s which is a homeless charity based in Westminster that helped me in my darkest hours.

How does it feel to have your name in the world famous Oxford Street Christmas lights?

To have my name up on the world famous lights is just an incredible honour. Being born and raised in London, seeing those lights every year would get you into the festive spirit and just to be nominated was a huge honour. To then be chosen is an incredibly proud moment.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

My life has changed completely this year and it means that for the first time for many years I can have some proper family time over Christmas. So being able to spend time with my three year old is going to be awesome this year as it’s the first Christmas he will properly understand what’s going on.

As a small token of our appreciation, we have gifted you with a £500 gift card. How will you be spending it?

My wife Sarah has already tried to claim it! But being able to treat the family this year for a change would be nice. I can’t wait to get down and be able to spend time on the best shopping street in the world.

Lynnette Johnson

Can you tell us more about your school and the work you do there? 
My school is called Lakeside, and we cater for children with severe learning difficulties, complex needs and autism. The age range of the school runs between 2 years and 19 years so you can imagine in that time we become part of the family for our young people. We are a small school with only 70 pupils and we really try to be a close knit community who support each other through the difficult times. It is not easy bringing up a child with special needs and it has been SO hard for our families during the pandemic. My staff team are the most amazing courageous group of people. They have worked tirelessly to provide school places, for our pupils putting their own safety very much in second place after the wellbeing of our pupils.
How does it feel to have your name in the world famous Oxford Street Christmas lights?
To have my name up in lights has been the most amazing experience. My husband and son drove me up to see it tonight and I felt so proud because it made me think of my lovely staff and what we’ve achieved together.
What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?
My favourite part of Christmas is usually our school Christmas play which is always a special affair. This year we will be making a special video for each class to send to the parents. I am looking forward to that.

As a small token of our appreciation, we have gifted you with a £500 gift card. How will you be spending it?

I will wait to spend the money until I can really go to town. I feel we will beat this virus and spending the money will be a true celebration of that. Thank you so so much for giving me this opportunity.

 

Ryan Dalton

Can you tell us more about the work you did providing meals and what inspired you to do this?

When QPG Community and Sports Hub was forced to close during lockdown the team knew it would badly affect the wonderful families and residents that rely on us in the community. So, we decided if they couldn’t come to us – we would go to them! Partnering with Ida restaurant, Queen’s Park Community Council and the Felix Project, we orchestrated the provision and delivery of hearty, nutritious cooked meals every day for vulnerable residents who were required to shield. Additionally, we ensured vital medicines and regular shopping runs were carried out for those who needed to stock up.

The QPG team we were inspired to do this because we’re all proud and invested in our amazing community. From our elderly friends who pop in for chats to young families who enjoy our breakfast clubs, Queen’s Park is a diverse and tight knit group. So with the horrific pandemic in full swing we realised there was no point sitting alone twiddling our thumbs, it was time to pull together and make sure those who relied on us weren’t let down. Thanks to our unique network of partnerships, as well as our tireless volunteers, and my colleague Riccardo Moore, who also did a lot of the cooking, we were able to accomplish far more than we’d ever hoped!

How does it feel to have your name in the world famous Oxford Street Christmas lights?


I’m totally chuffed! The Oxford Street Christmas lights are famous all around the world – people fly in every year just to see them. But on a personal note, as a local boy who used to do his Christmas shopping beneath those very lights, it’s definitely extra special. This has been such a tough year in many ways, so for all the effort and hours I’ve put in to be recognised like this means the world to me – I was emotional when I found out.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?

Well this year will be a Christmas like no other. I understand that many people won’t be able to see their families or will be thinking of loved ones. So I think this Christmas will be about taking stock and reflecting on the work we’ve done and still hope to do. I can’t wait to celebrate the achievements of the exceptional QPG Team together, as more than friends but as family. But the work doesn’t stop now – there’s still more to do over Christmas and you can bet we’ll keep going as long as we’re needed. I am looking forward to seeing how we can pull together again and make Christmas easier on the most vulnerable residents from our community.

How will you be spending your £500 gift card?

Gosh, I haven’t really thought about it really. In all honesty, I have absolutely no idea! All I do know is that I’m incredibly grateful for it – so thank you very much!

 

Diane Sexton

Diane was nominated by Sharon for her help with the residents at Westcliff Court who live nearby to her. The residents she helps are over 60, with the eldest being 92 years old. Diane will support them with anything from shopping, cleaning, hospital appointments or doctors. She will go out of her way to help them in anyway she can.

Diane is in her 70s but doesn’t let her age stop her. She is a real hero to over 50 residents. I know we would all like to thank her in a very special unique way. To see her name in the Christmas lights will be an incredible way to honour her.

 

Leanne Pero

Leanne was nominated by her friend Cheryl for all the amazing work she does to help others living with cancer. Read what Cheryl said about this week’s hero.

“Leanne is a survivor of Breast Cancer which brings many challenges. Yet despite this, Leanne set up support groups, podcasts and shared her story across numerous platforms to help other people living with cancer. She is extremely kind and very supportive, she has a way of making every person who is in her company feel special. Leanne is always busy but she always seems to find the time to look after her cancer community. She never stops! When you’re feeling down, beautiful parcels or messages will be received from Leanne. She takes many positive steps forward and always holds her hand out to take you with her. Such a selfless human being. She was diagnosed just before her 30th birthday, today she is still thriving and supporting anyone who needs support without attaching conditions. She was also nominated for Lorraine’s Woman of the Year award and was one of the last 3 finalists. Leanne really deserves to see how much she is loved in lights.”

 

Ele Cocran

Ele was nominated by her nephew, Toby. Toby shared this story about his aunt and why she deserves to be recognised.

“At the start of the pandemic, Ele who is a research nurse stepped up to support in the critical care unit at Kings College Hospital. At the height of the crisis when the units were beyond their capacity, Ele was doing arduous 12 hour shifts in PPE looking after those with virus. It shows her selflessness, kindness and desire to care for others. She put herself in harms way to help the sick and support her colleagues at the NHS. She is also my auntie and I am very proud of her!”

Rosie Taylor-Davies

Rosie was nominated by her friend Broni Lloyd-Edwards. Broni shared the following story about Rosie and all that she has done to help so many organisations by providing scrubs together with her amazing team at The Scrubbery. 

‘Rosie’s daughter and her fiancé are doctors in London. When the outbreak started, there were not enough scrubs. The ones that were available were all huge. So Rosie started making some. Then she made more. She hasn’t stopped since early March. She worked out of St Mary’s church in Putney with a small team, 7 days a week, now she’s moved to old squash courts. It’s relentless. She and her small team of volunteers have made thousands and thousands of scrubs, many of them from upcycled bedlinen donated by locals. They’ve provided the major hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries, dentists and hospices with the kit they need. She works 9am till midnight most days and she won’t stop until demand stops. She’s extraordinary.’

 

Read more: Celebrating Christmas in London