IT was a night to honour the often unseen and uncelebrated achievements of the region’s incredible charities - and what a night it was.

The 2017 North East Charity Awards, held in Newcastle’s Boiler Shop, saw individuals, volunteers and charitable organisations of every size nominated and honoured for the work they do in changing the lives and the landscape of the north east region.

And the North East Autism Society was among the winners!

We are proud to announce that our CEO, John Phillipson, was recognised as being North East Charity Leader of the Year and our organisation received a Highly Commended in the Uniquely North East category.

I’m accepting this award on behalf of the hundreds of excellent staff at NEAS who make me look good! It's of course an incredible honour and one which I'm incredibly grateful for.

We've never stopped working on behalf of the children, young people and adults in our region who deserve the very best care, education and innovation, which means I'm sometimes the one suggesting things and pressing ahead into the unknown.

I’d like to thank our board of trustees, many of whom are parents of people who use our services, for awarding me the privilege and trust of heading up this organisation.

On a night like tonight you are reminded of how privileged we all are to be in the best place in the UK working to see lives - and our region transformed.

North East Autism Awards

More than 450 turned out to the prestigious evening, which was organised by The Journal and The Gazette in partnership with Brewin Dolphin and Leathers the Accountants.

There were 11 categories plus a special contribution award.

Outstanding Charity Support by large companies went to Intu Eldon Square and Metro Centre.

Uniquely North East was awarded to Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books; with NEAS receiving Highly Commended.

Young Charity Champion of the Year went to Jayne Plummer who volunteers with Young Carers after receiving support from them herself when she helped look after her mum as a young child.

The winners of Outstanding Charity Support for small to medium companies were Darlington Building Society.

In Charity Leader, Huffty McHugh leader the West End Women and Girls Centre and Andrew Watts, Chief Executive of Groundworks South Tyneside and Newcastle were Highly Commended with NEAS lead, John Phillipson taking top honours.

He added: "Both Huffty and Andrew do exceptional work and like myself have been in their fields for a very long time. Either would have been worthy winners. We’re all here because people impacted by the work we do made nominations. Knowing we’ve helped or made a difference is the prize.”

North East Charity Awards

Outstanding Social Enterprise Award went to The Alnwick Garden with 92-year-old Dorothy Rose winning Champion Volunteer for 73 years service with what is now Age UK Teesside.

The Outstanding Individual Contribution to Charity was Angela Curran who by day is head of medical negligence and serious injury at Burnetts Solicitors. On top of her work she devotes herself to supporting Percy Hedley including raising more than £400,000.

The philanthropy award was given to Lyn Shears from the Community Foundation and Special Contribution went to iconic North-east company Greggs for its Foundation work over the last 30 years.

The Halo Project in Middlesbrough, set up to help BME women who are victims of domestic, sexual or ‘honour’ violence, female genital mutilation or forced marriage, were awarded Small Charity of

the Year and top honours, Charity of the Year, went to Changing Lives who support more than 12,000 people a year impacted by addiction, homelessness, sex work, domestic violence and mental health problems.

It was also a great night for promoting awareness of autism.

Intu were praised for now being ‘autism friendly’ and seven-year-old Joe Denny was commended for his support of the Toby Henderson Trust.

Well done to all the finalists.