The stars of a pioneering North-East charity have been honoured during an awards roadshow led by North-East television legend Pam Royle.

Pam, in the guise of Frenchy, from the hit movie Grease, spent the day touring the region to present The Star Awards to outstanding staff working for the North East Autism Society.

The honours included a Lifetime Achievement Award for Cath Todd, who first joined the charity in 1991, and has risen to become manager of the Brentwood home, in Sunderland.

Cath said: “I’ve been here a long time but there were always new challenges, new training, and opportunities to think of different ways to do things. I would never consider doing anything else.”

An avid fan of crime dramas, Cath was surprised by a video message from actress Brenda Blethyn, who plays ITV’s Vera.

Other winners received congratulatory videos from: North-East footballer hero Alan Shearer; actor Tim Healey; Darlington Hippodrome panto star Christopher Biggins; world-famous Middlesbrough artist Mackenzie Thorpe; Lindisfarne musician Ray Laidlaw; singer Joe McElderry; Sunderland footballer Luke O’Nien; Tyne Tees TV presenter Ian Payne; Saint Helens rugby star Alex Walmsley; Sunderland Empire panto star Miss Rory; County Durham Fire & Rescue Service; and Steve and Karen, from Metro Radio.

Staff were encouraged to wear fancy-dress for the day, and Pam Royle was accompanied by North-East journalist Peter Barron, playing the part of Danny Zuko.

Pam said: “We had such an uplifting day, meeting NEAS staff and seeing first-hand how they enrich the lives of others. Everywhere we went, we could feel the warmth, care and love. The smiles on all the faces spoke volumes. It was a pleasure to hand out such richly deserved awards.”

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson added: “I’m immensely proud of our staff, who continue to go the extra mile to enrich the lives of the children and adults we support.

The Star Awards is one way in which we try to express our gratitude for everything they do. Normally they are presented at an awards dinner but, with so much going on in the wake of the pandemic, and now the cost-of-living crisis, we decided to do it a bit differently this year. The fancy-dress roadshow has gone down a storm.

ROLL OF HONOUR: Lifetime Achievement – Cath Todd, manager of Brentwood, in Sunderland. CEO Commendation – Honor Lamb, from Parklands Court Supported Living Home, in Seaham. Chairman’s Awards –Braemar Gardens residential home, in Sunderland; and No. 24 Adult Day Services, in Sunderland. Teams of the Year – Residential Activity Support, and Bedlington Independent Supported Living.  Inspirational Leaders – Nicole Dowell, programme manager at No. 24 Adult Day Services, in Sunderland, and Beth Forster, area manager for Independent Supported Living. Making A Difference – Redhouse Independent Supported Living. Unsung Hero – Sandra Renney, from Ashton Residential Home, in Sunderland. Newcomer of the Year – Jon Appleton, from the fundraising team. Mackenzie Thorpe Award – Lucy Sinclair, from the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, at South Bank, Middlesbrough. People’s Choice – Chloe Winter and Emma Wise, from The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre.

Read more about our winners