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Mam named Boro Hero for taking Xmas joy to hundreds

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A mam with a huge heart who brought Christmas joy to hundreds of families while raising money for her terminally ill friend has been named a Boro Hero.

Caring Nicola Debnath-Warren, 35, has been championed by Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston after she was nominated for the award.

Nicola, a mother-of-four, was joined by her aunt, Audrey Tait, in making Santa visits to families around Middlesbrough.

They called at people's homes in an illuminated campervan to drop off presents and pose for socially-distanced photos with excited children.

Nicola started the visits only a day after she left hospital following surgery.

"The kids were over the moon," Nicola said. "It was magical for them and it was nice to be able to lift spirits."

Around £1,100 was raised in three days which Nicola is to donate to her friend Leanne Foster.

Leanne is hoping to make this year "extra special" for her two children after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Nicola said Leanne's story was "harrowing" and herself and Audrey - an "absolute gem" - were determined to try and help the family have a memorable Christmas.

Nicola's friend Nichola Morby nominated her for the Boro Hero award.

The pair have been best friends since meeting at Park End Primary School 30 years ago.

In 2015 Nicola arranged a "white wedding" when Nichola's parents renewed their vows after her mum Carol was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Nicola has helped several families in their hour of need in recent years, raising thousands of pounds, often with the support of her aunty Audrey.

Nichola said: "Nicola is one in a million. I've never known anyone with as big a heart as her. She will drop everything for anyone. Nicola is 100% a Boro Hero."

Nicola was "shocked" to be nominated for the award but was delighted to accept.

"It's really nice to feel appreciated," she said, adding her thanks to Ernie Ward from North East Van Club for his support for the Santa Visits fundraising.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "Nicola has done so much for so many Middlesbrough families.

"This year has been tough for everyone, but selfless Nicola, along with her aunty Audrey, has been able to spread some cheer and help a family going through a really difficult time.

"When I heard just how much Nicola has done for others in the past few years I knew straight away she was deserving of the Boro Hero award."

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston (R), pictured with Boro Hero Nicola Debnath-Warren and her seven-year-old daughter Olivia