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The countdown is on to the annual Pride of M&S Awards, which recognises those who have gone the extra mile to help their local community and made a real impact to the lives of those around them.

From marathon running to volunteering their time in the local community this year’s competition is fierce with inspiring stories of dedication and selflessness in abundance. It’s a fantastic event that makes me proud to work for M&S among some truly inspiring colleagues.

But this year there’s a catch….In a twist to the usual format, this year we have introduced a new category – the fundraising award. It’s the only category that is open to a public vote, so it’s a real chance for our colleagues and customers to get involved and help someone from their local store win a national award as well as all important funds for their charity.

Four nominees must campaign for the public’s vote, including:

Zoe Driver from our Macclesfield store whose mum was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in November 2016. At just 18 Zoe has raised over £3k so far for Cancer Research UK by completing 2 pretty muddy race for life, holding cake sales at her school, organising a summer ball for 70 people and is about to do a cycle ride from London to Paris in August this year.

Mike Whittaker from our Shoreham store has raised £50k for an orphanage in Malawi since 2007. The orphanage supports children who have lost their parents through Aids and the children all have HIV themselves. The money that Mike has raised pays for HIV medication and the children's education.

John Ross Reilly, Louise Adams & Mary Derwin from our Dublin store have been fundraising and supporting Inner City Helping the Homeless. The team raised €15k which helped the charity buy a bigger van to offer support and suppliers to homeless people in Dublin. When one of the worst snow storms in years hit Dublin, the team organised for M&S thermals to be donated to homeless people and opened the store throughout the night to offer them a safe and warm place to sleep.

Jerome Brown from our Falmouth lost his 11-year-old nephew to Sudden Unexpected Death from Epilepsy in 2011. Since this tragedy Jerome has raised £75,000 for the cause, through skydives, charity runs and other events.  Above his work with SUDEP he actively leads charitable efforts in the region, recently organising a Macmillan golf day raising £1200.

Nothing is off limits for our four nominees, we want to see creativity and ingenuity from their campaigns as they look to clinch those important community votes! With a £1,000 donation to their chosen charity up for grabs, its important our colleague and customers get behind them and show their support!

Voting opens today for two weeks. Anyone can vote – to see the nominees and vote for your winner visit:  https://corporate.marksandspencer.com/pride-of-m-and-s-awards

The winner will be revealed at the annual Pride of M&S Awards dinner in London on October 4th. Good luck and get voting!