Debenhams has teamed up with the Watford Observer to find special local heroes.

Over the next few weeks we will be giving away a £50 store voucher to the winners.

But not only that, the overall winner will get a ‘money can’t buy’ prize to cut the ribbon and officially declare the Debenham’s store open on Thursday, September 27.

The hero – who will get an exclusive preview of the store before it opens to the public - will win an exclusive styling session with a Debenhams designer and £200 of exclusive Debenhams designer clothes, as well as make-up and treatments in the new beauty hall.

The three floor store will be spread across 86,000 square foot and will anchor the new 400,000 square foot Intu Watford extension.

The new look department store will also house a mix of designer fashion – such as Star by Julien Macdonald, J by Jasper Conran, No1. by Jenny Packham and Studio by Preen – and leading beauty brands, including Tom Ford, Chanel and Dior.

Tony Hurley, store manager of the new Debenhams Watford store, said: “Watford has a strong community spirit, so we’re really looking forward to hearing about all the great people that live in the area.

“We are on the lookout for ordinary people doing extraordinary things - whether that is someone doing exceptional things for charity or the community, or someone that is a genuinely good person to be around.

“We want to hear from, or about, all the amazing people doing amazing things in Watford.”

Vicki Costello, general manager at intu Watford said: “We are extremely excited to be opening the new Debenhams at intu Watford this September, marking the completion of the first phase of our £180m development. This new fantastic store for Watford will complement our existing retail offering, creating a place where our customers smile, and our retailers can flourish.”

Would you like to nominate a community hero? Email

Suzanne Boon has been the first person nominated for the Watford Observer’s Community Heroes Award in recognition of her incredible work in establishing and managing the Carer Support Team at Watford General Hospital.

Suzanne’s youngest daughter, Annie, was poorly from the outset and had experimental surgery at Kings College Hospital while still in the womb.

She was born prematurely, and while Annie continued to receive treatment in London, she was also cared for at Watford’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

Suzanne takes up the story:

“Annie got acute pneumonia when she was tiny and I was blown away by the care we received. I couldn’t believe that the treatment we received was available on the NHS; if we’d been elsewhere in the world, then I’m sure we would have been bankrupt.

“But it was a stressful time as hospitals can be confusing places, particularly if you’ve been rushed in unexpectedly. That’s why my husband and I decided that, when Annie started school, we would do something to say thank you.

“So I liaised with Annie’s consultant, Amanda Equi, and Matron, Becky Platt, and we set up the Carer Support Team on Watford’s Starfish Children’s Ward in 2014.”

Suzanne took on the unpaid co-ordination role, spending many of hours of her own time training and supporting volunteers, liaising with staff, setting up policies and protocols, all while providing support to families herself.

The team comprises trained volunteers who provide practical support including organising interpreters and supplying emergency toiletries, to emotional support like sitting with a poorly child while their carer has a meal, makes necessary phone calls or takes a shower.

The team was so well received on Starfish that it was extended to the Children’s Emergency Department in November, where around 22,500 sick children are admitted every year.

This can be an emotional time for their parents and carers who will be anxious about their loved one’s health while being faced with the many practicalities an emergency admission brings.

The service is regularly evaluated and, to date, 99 per cent of respondents have rated the service “extremely useful” in supporting them whilst they are in hospital with their sick child.

At least a quarter of the volunteers are parents who have benefited from the team’s support, and this is testimony to how valuable the relationship is between the volunteers and the carers they support.

Suzanne said: “I’m constantly amazed with how much our volunteers have to offer. They’ve got so many skills and such expertise, and they all want a way to give back.

“We can’t help medically and we’re not a replacement for nursing staff – we’re the people with time and experience.

“It’s about everybody doing their little bit; we’re truly a great team.”

Other hospitals from across the country have been in touch, interested in introducing similar teams in their own region, which is testimony to Suzanne’s sheer determination to make the project a success.

Suzanne is now working with the Trust’s charity, West Hertfordshire Hospitals Charity, to raise funds to extend the Carer Support Team to families in Watford’s SCBU.

As part of the fundraising, the team are holding a #WeCareToo Family Day on July 15 in Monks Horton Way in St Albans (11am to 3pm).

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