Pride of Britain winner. Can you believe it? I still can’t.
Here’s a 10 minute vlog of me and my Dad through the entire experience, it’s probably one of the best videos I’ll ever share:
And below is the blog, extra videos and some cheeky pictures too…
‘You’re the pride of Gloucester’, somebody said to me as I was attempting my treadmill world record. I wasn’t in great physical or mental shape at that stage and remember feeling like that was the loveliest thing to say. I’m a proud Gloucester boy after all, but Pride of Britain? That sounds like far too much responsibility!
Let me tell you all about the day I won the Pride of Britain ‘Fundraiser of the Year’ award. It was an adventure for sure.
It started, firstly, being awarded the Pride of Britain ‘Fundraiser of the Year’ award for the west. I was told I’d be going to the finals in London with all the other regional winners – and only one fundraiser (out of seventeen) would be selected as the national winner.
The day of the awards came, and we arrived at a posh hotel in London, joined by my dad. Recently I took my mum to St James Palace to meet Prince Edward, so it was time to share the love and take dad to the next special occasion!
During our brief before the awards, me, my dad and the other sixteen fundraisers were put into a room. We watched everyone’s story up on screen and I must say, I was blown away and just incredibly inspired. During the brief, we were told to really ‘milk’ the red carpet and not to rush it all. Me and my dad really understand the word ‘milk’!
I decided to wear my Adventureman suit for the awards which made me worry slightly as the night is about being humble, but I had to remind myself that fundraising is fun and if the suit made someone smile, it would be worth it. My dad was wearing a shirt with braces, tie and trousers and a baseball cap back to front. That is a seriously big step for my dad, he normally wears just a pair of shorts and nothing else!
Once we hit the red carpet of Grosvenor Hotel, it was surreal, seeing the line of fans on the outside wanting signatures and camera’s waiting for the stars. We gradually got to the halfway point of the red carpet, I looked at my dad and said, ‘shall we just stay put?’ He agreed.
The first celeb showed up and my dad acted like a kid in a sweet shop. He screamed ‘Brunoooo Brunooooo’ as he fist pumped the air and then said to me, ‘J’, that’s Frank Bruno right there.’ He asked Frank for a photo and then said, ‘this is my boy, he’s up for Fundraiser of the Year, Frank!’ My dad looked seriously proud.
Then, one after another star after star rocked up; Sir Ben Kingsley, singer Alexandra Burke, Danny Jones from The Voice; Simon Cowell; England Football manager Gareth Southgate, you name them, they were there! And we were on the same carpet as them!
One of the stars was Man united player Ryan Giggs. My dad says to me, ‘we gotta get a picture with Giggsy!’ As Ryan walks over my dad excited says to him, ‘Giggs, can we get a picture together? I’d love to show my best friend, he’s a huge Liverpool fan.’
Giggs’ face looked the picture of horror and he reluctantly took a photo with us. My Dad looked at me and said, ‘he wasn’t overly warm, was he?’ I replied, ‘Dad, you do realise Giggs was a Man United player, don’t you? I think you probably said one of the most offensive things possible to a football player.’ My Dad shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘ah, well!’
During dinner, we were situated in a spot where pretty much every single person and star had to walk past us to head to their dinner table. At one point, presenter Dermot O’Leary popped past but before he did, he gave me a quick shoulder massage. It was actually pretty good, and I think he should consider a new profession if he ever gets bored of television work!
Okay, so I’m totally aware that I’m doing a lot of name dropping, so I’m just going to shut up now and crack on with the awards.
During dinner, my nerves were really, really bad. So bad that I struggled to eat. When I looked around at all the other fundraisers, they had a similar look and weren’t eating either. Story after story went by and I had a lump in my throat on many occasions.
As the show neared to the end, Carol Vorderman then said, ‘right, it’s time to announce our national winner for Fundraiser of the Year…’. The camera pointed at me and then Carol said, ‘up you come Adventureman!’
Everyone stood up. A standing ovation. I looked at Dad in disbelief. There was a part of me that I felt like it could be me, but you just never know, and I felt like it was more that I hoped it would be me, probably like all the other fundraisers. Walking through the crowds I felt like this should be one of these moments that you cherish, but it was completely different, my brain just couldn’t comprehend what was going on. I’ve watched the Pride of Britain since I was a kid and I was just hugely overwhelmed with the experience and completely in shock.
Up on stage with the amazing Carol Vorderman, she said ‘I’ve been following you on Twitter. Let’s show everyone what you’ve been up to.’ Then a video played from all my past adventures, highlighting that we’ve raised more than a million for sick kids through my adventures and Superhero Foundation. When the video finished, Carol then wanted me to tell people about my story.
I can’t quite remember what I said (which is weird, I’m up on stage a lot as a motivational speaker, always keeping my cool, but on this occasion, it’s fair to say that was NEVER going to happen). One of the first words I remember saying was, ‘I just want to say thank you to my mum and dad for popping me out!’
As soon as I said it, I remember thinking, did I actually just say that? Everyone laughed so I pulled it off, though I’m not sure what my mum will think of it.
I had a moment up there, where I suddenly realised that I was probably in front of the most influential room of people in the country and all I could think of was showcasing Anna’s story – she is my true love and partner in crime after all.
So, I said, ‘I’m proper in love you know Carol. I know I’m up here getting this award, but my girlfriend Anna is currently running 100 marathons for the Girlguilding community, completely barefoot. She makes me look like a wussy!’
Carol then said, ‘she’s on an adventure as well? But when do you ever get to see each other?’ I replied, ‘every couple of months. Actually, thinking about it, maybe that’s why it works so well.’
Everyone laughed again and my nerves started to settle. I did also manage to acknowledge the other fundraisers, which felt important to do as they’re all so incredibly inspiring and deserving. And five years ago, I was sat where they were and didn’t win, so I could really empathise with their disappointment.
Then Carol said, right, we’ve got two very special people to award you and two Olympic heroes came out, Greg Rutherford and Dina Asher-Smith. They were holding the actual silver sparkly Pride of Britain Award (you know, with the wings and everything!).
The duo said some incredible things about my achievements and at the end Greg said, “the fact that you do all of this and don’t get any medals at the end of it and you raise money for sick kids is just so inspiring. And from us this is a huge honour to be able to give you this award.’ It really choked me up and off I went from the stage.
After being on stage, it was time to do some interviews with Greg and Dina about the experience. At one point after Greg and Dina gave me so much love saying ‘our achievements don’t even compare to what you’ve done’ that’s when I butted in and said to both WORLD CHAMPIONS, ‘yes, you’re right. What you’ve both done is absolutely pathetic! You should be ashamed of yourselves.’
If you don’t believe me, you can watch one of the interviews here:
After the interviews, I then went back on stage to join all of the winners while Emeli Sande performed her new song. Towards the end, confetti flew down from the sky and tears rolled down my face. It couldn’t have been a prouder moment. We won the Pride of Britain, Fundraiser of the Year 2019. Thank you to every single person who’s supported, donated, we should of all been up on that stage. We actually did it.
From one adventure to the next…
That night, I was told that all the winners would be going to Number 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
In the morning, after 2 hours of sleep and a slightly sore head, my dad dressed up for the occasion, wearing some scraggy army shorts and a vest, along with his flip flops – and naturally I didn’t bother getting changed – I was wearing my Adventureman suit!
Walking through the big black door of number 10, we were all excited. We were all waiting in one of the fancy rooms, all the winners grouped together with our Pride of Britain trophies, ready to get our pictures taken.
I noticed the chair right in front of me was empty, so I said, ‘there’s someone missing here, one of the other winners maybe?’
The camera man then said, ‘that’s Boris’ seat.’ Of course, I thought, forgetting who we were about to meet!
Then sure enough, 10 seconds later, the Prime minister walked in, greeting us all and then sitting in front of me. The cameras all started to go off and flash and then the camera man said, ‘can you hold your trophies higher so we can see them for the picture?’
I realised mine was struggling to be on show and you know I love to have some fun, so I said, ‘your head’s in the way, Boris, they can’t see my award.”
Did I actually say those words? I swear I must have mild tourette’s syndrome! Though, it did get a very big laugh and that’s what I love to do. The Daily Mirror even wrote about it!
After the picture, Boris came over to me and my dad for a chinwag. He was extremely inquisitive, asking lots of questions. Now, you know I’m not very intellectually intelligent, and I don’t really know much about politics, but from a social intelligence, I’m up there with the best (yup, I’m giving myself some love) and I could tell he genuinely connected to my story and felt really engaged.
After 10 minutes of gas bagging, he then said, ‘one million pounds raised? That’s astonishing. Thank you for everything you do for our country.’
Just as he left, I said, ‘well Boris, you’re more than welcome to join me on the next adventure if you like?’ He laughed and said, ‘I might just do that faster than you think!’
Leaving number 10 Downing Street was the end of the beautiful experience. I know politics can be quite divisive, but as a sick kid, I wouldn’t have thought that my journey would lead me here.
I walked off accompanying all the other Pride of Britain winners and I felt nothing but pride. I’ve travelled the world and there are some amazing countries I’ve adventured through, yet, I still believe we really do live in one of the best countries in the world.
Pure pride I tell ya, pure PRIDE!
Again, if you never watched my vlog, you can watch it here on YouTube, I’m really not joking about it being one of the best videos I’ll ever share:
If you enjoyed the blog, do share it, as the more people that hear about my story the better – and the bigger difference we can make in changing lives. THANK YOU!