Denise ‘a well deserved winner’ says Mayor

Denise White, winner of the Woman of the Year 2013 pictured with Brenda Stevenson, Mary O'Neill and Robert Canning. (0903SL36)
Denise White, winner of the Woman of the Year 2013 pictured with Brenda Stevenson, Mary O'Neill and Robert Canning. (0903SL36)

A Derry woman who gave up her teaching job to found a charity which improves the lives of children and adults with learning disabilities has been crowned ‘Woman of the Year.’

Accepting the award at the City Hotel on Friday night Denise White founder of ‘Something Special’ inisisted she was nothing “special”. However the crowd had other ideas as they rose to their feet to celebrate the achievements of a woman who will be an ambassador for women during the city’s culture year.

“I cant believe it,” she told the Sunday Journal. “I checked my phone and I had about 50 text messages. I am totally proud, and to come here and celebrate with so many brilliant people has been amazing. I am totally overwhelmed and in shock.

“What it does do is bring into reality what I have done and what I aim to do in the future because my vision is huge .”

Denise set up Something Special in 2007 because of the lack of provision for people with learning disabilities in the North West.

“My uncle Dessie had Down Syndrome and I said that I would set up Something Special. The people I work with are amazing and have so many talents. Setting up Something Special is the best decision I have ever made. We are doing incredible things.”

Paying tribute to Denise, the Mayor Colr Kevin Campbell said she was a well deserved winner who worked tirelessly to make a real difference to the lives of others.

He commented: “Denise is an incredibly passionate advocate for young adults with special educational needs. Thanks to her years of hard work and dedication, she has helped young adults from across the region to access music and the arts and perform across the country. She is an inspiration person who only sees the abilities of our young people, not their disabilities. She has made a huge difference to the lives of so many people across the city through her commitment, dedication and genuine love of young people and I am delighted she has been chosen as the Woman of the year for 2013.”

Other winners on the night were: Maureen Collins, Contribution to Women’s Community Development; Susan Gibson, Contribution to Health; Tracy Hegarty, Contribution to Enterprise; Collette Craig, Contribution to Community Safety; Eibhlin Ni Dhochartaigh, Contribution to the Arts; Denis White, Contribution to Formal/Informal Education; Rose White, Contribution to Older People; Mary O’Neill, Contribution to Youth; Maureen Hasson, Contribution to Childcare; Agnes Ward, Contribution to Caring; and Laura Holmes, Women Living with a Disability.

Joanna Boyd, Women’s Officer with Derry City Council and co-ordinator of the awards, said 2013 was another great success story. Thanking everyone for their nominations she said it was extremely difficult for the judges to pick winners with everyone being deserving of recognition.

See further coverage in Tuesday’s Journal and online at www.derryjournal.com.