AS an epic year for Olympic Torchbearer Martin Handley, draws to a close, the fund-raiser for Derbyshire Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance has been revealed as the first Ashburnian of the Year.
Following several nominations and numerous votes in the News Telegraph competition, Mr Handley, 31, was presented with a special medal made by Ashbourne jewellers CW Sellors.
He said: “It’s a nice end to a phenomenal year. I’d like to thank everybody who has taken the time to vote and nominate and everything.
“Carrying the torch was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. To see all those people and the photos afterwards just makes me more than proud.
“That amazing day with the torch has helped with the fund-raising 10 fold. To have raised all that money just for a few photographs; I’m quite proud of that to be honest.
“It helped because people were getting something in exchange for their donations, something they could take away and keep.
Mr Handley started to fund raise for the air ambulance after his little boy Luke, died in a road accident aged just seven. His efforts to support the air ambulance in memory of his son led to his carrying the Olympic Torch and helped him raise £6,225 for the life-saving service.
He added: “If you’d said to me two and a half years ago that I’d be able to get myself back on my feet, I’d be running with the Olympic Torch, getting married and now Ashburnian of the Year, I’d have laughed.
“But it is possible. Although it is only possible with help from my family, Laura and her family and all our friends as well as those people who have helped me out with fund-raising.
“I’d like to thank the people of Ashbourne for that - for their support. It has been really good.
“When I was out on the streets with the torch I’d see families and kids spot it and get excited. That was just magical.
“Part of why I was nominated for the Torch was the fund-raising and if I can give someone something to keep and raise money at the same time that’s just amazing. It has been an incredible year.
“It was very emotional for me carrying the Torch through the town. At first I was worried about whether I could do it or not. I got support though and I was told Luke would be looking down on me, so I found the energy to do it.
“I could’ve cried the whole way through, but I kept shouting instead so I could get through it. I can’t thank everyone enough for coming out that day.”
Now, after an incredible year, Mr Handley is looking forward to taking a break from his fund-raising efforts and focussing on his up-coming marriage to Laura Weston.
He added: “I’m getting married to Laura in April.
“It’s nice to be back on my feet and feeling happy every day. It takes some doing.
“Finding Laura has been a massive help for me with Luke and everything. She’s been a real rock and I’m sure I’ve done Luke proud as well.
“Fund-raising for me at first gave me something to focus on and helped me try to get something good out of something bad as well.
“If it saves another life - from the torch we’ve sent the helicopter up four or five times - which could save another family from losing their little boy. That makes it worth it.
“The Ashburnian of the Year Award is an honour. There are many other people out there who deserve this honeour and I’d just like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate or vote for me.”