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The Great Scot 2004: Helena's The Greatest; Former nurse scoops People's Oscar for 'adopting' Chernobyl kids #We honour ordinary people who have achieved the extraordinary # THE GREAT SCOTS.

Byline: DONNA WHITE Chief writer

SCOTLAND'S most inspirational mother Helena Cairns shed tears of joy last night as she was named Great Scot 2004.

Former nurse Helena, 45, scooped Scotland's top People's Oscar for fostering 28 little victims of the Chernobyl disaster. Helena, from Fort William, cannot have children of her own and survives on disability allowance after an agonising blood disorder forced her to give up work.

Yet the woman friends know as Mother Russia has been 'mum' to children ravaged by cancer and heart problems from the radioactive fallout that poisoned their home in 1986.

Helena's tender loving care, Scotland's clean air and proper medical attention has given them a fresh chance at life.

She was nominated by her friend Suzanne Theobald, who said: 'She's a real inspiration. I knew she was a Great Scot - and I'm so glad that the rest of Scotland agreed with me.'

Helena collected her award at Scotland's party of the year to honour the best our country has to offer. It was hosted by Dougie Donnelly, in front of a glittering array of stars at Glasgow's Hilton Hotel. Helena was picked by the judges from thousands of nominations sent in by Sunday Mail readers and main sponsors Lloyds TSB Scotland.

Four extraordinary Scots received unsung hero awards - and for the first time in the event's 14-year history they were all women.

Talented actress Paula Sage, 24, has Down's Syndrome but went on to win rave reviews in the film AfterLife, which moved Sean Connery to tears. Not bad for a girl who doctors said would never walk or talk.

Lawyer Olivia Giles, 37, raised almost pounds 500,000 for meningitis charities after losing her hands and feet to the disease. She helps others, like quadruple amputee Paige Allen, aged two, live with the legacy of meningitis.

Helen Ann Lundie, 38, runs the West of Scotland Football Club for the Physically Disabled, giving joy to 30 young men with disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy to amputated limbs.

Gemma Russell, 19, gave up her flat and moved in with her young cousins to raise them after their mum died of cancer. The boys, Dagan, 15, and 13-year-old Ross Arif, hadn't seen their dad in 10 years and would have been placed into care had it not been for Gemma.

It was also a night to honour some Great Scots who have carried the Saltire around the world.

Movie star Brian Cox flew in from Los Angeles to pick up a Great Scot Lifetime Achievement Award as his proud family from Dundee cheered him on.

It was a big night for his home town, as the city's Liz McColgan - Scotland's greatest-ever athlete - presented the sports award to two-time Olympic medal-winning yachtswoman Shirley Robertson.

Pop group Franz Ferdinand and flamboyant TV interior designers Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister scooped music and entertainment awards.

A special Lloyds TSB Scotland Better Life award went to the Princess Royal Trust East Ayrshire Carers Centre, which gives support to more than 3500 carers. They provide an annual free holiday for young carers as well as ensuring they receive Christmas and birthday gifts.

Women of Influence received the charity award after raising pounds 135,000 for children's charity NCH.

Sunday Mail editor Allan Rennie said: 'I would like to thank all our readers for their thousands of nominations. There are unsung heroes all over our little nation - and this night is for them.'

CAPTION(S):

Brave: Meningitis victim Olivia; Worthy: Footie club boss Helen; Sacrifices: Teenager Gemma; Inspiration: Actress Paula; Saviour: Foster; mum Helena offers Chernobyl victims like little Anya fresh hope
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 31, 2004
Words:601
Previous Article:The Great Scot 2004: STAR WINNERS.
Next Article:The Great Scot 2004: HALL OF FAME.


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