The heroes of 2022: From bowel cancer campaigner to Ukrainian girl singing in a bunker

There were several people who took 2022 by storm, serving as heroes either through helping the UK achieve feats many did not think were possible or leaving positive legacies after their passing.

Here are some of their stories.

– Little Ukrainian girl singing in bunker wins over hearts across the globe

Amelia Anisovych gained global attention at age seven when she was filmed singing hit Disney song Let It Go from a bomb shelter during Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.

Since then, the now eight-year-old has appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) twice and Lorraine with her mother, Lilia, and got to meet her heroes by being joined on stage by Samantha Barks and Emily Lane, who play main characters Elsa and Anna in Frozen on the West End.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Eight-year-old Amelia Anisovych wearing a traditional Ukrainian embroidered dress, on the night of her performance at the Atlas Arena stadium in Lodz, central Poland (Lilia Anisovych/PA)

During GMB’s 2022 Christmas special, Amelia got a bag of presents, including a headband she immediately put on while exclaiming: “Oh, my gosh.”

When asked by presenter Susanna Reid what she will be doing to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas, which is often marked on January 7, she said she will be “with the whole family, sitting and eating.

“I can’t wait to see my whole family.”

– UK Eurovision entry encourages others to reach for space and the stars with second-placed finish

Despite not winning the 2022 Eurovision song contest in May, Sam Ryder came close to victory, securing second place – a position many in the UK probably did not think would be achieved.

The winners were Kalush Orchestra, who represented Ukraine with a song called Stefania.

Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball 2022 – Day One – O2 Arena – London
Sam Ryder backstage during day one of Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball (Ian West/PA)

Despite not winning, 2022 has been a year filled with success for Ryder, who got to perform his entry Space Man at the late Queen’s Platinum Party at the Palace in June and his debut album – There’s Nothing But Space, Man! – topped the UK charts in December.

Ryder told the Official Charts Company: “It looks like Christmas came early, because we achieved a number one record together.

“Thank you all so much. If you knew the amount of people who’ve worked so hard on this, it’d blow your mind. This is pure collaboration.”

– Bowel cancer campaigner helps raise awareness and millions for condition

Dame Deborah James fought tirelessly to raise awareness for bowel cancer – a condition she died from in June 28, at the age of 40.

Many paid respect to the ardent campaigner, who was also known by her social media handle Bowel Babe, by donating to her Bowel Babe fundraiser for Cancer Research UK, which passed the £6 million mark in her final days.

There was also record numbers of people having bowel cancer checks, according to the NHS.

Known for her positivity in the face of adversity, she posted inspirational messages on her social media accounts.

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In one of her last Instagram posts, which was posted in June, she wrote: “Feeling grateful to be able to enjoy another moment of sunshine on my face, and food that makes me smile! Just trying to find the diamond moments in the rough – but when you look hard enough you realise they can still be there!”

– Broadcaster takes to the treadmill and raises over £1 million for BBC Children In Need

In November, Scott Mills completed a 24-hour treadmill challenge, where he raised more than £1 million for BBC Children In Need.

The broadcaster started the Great Scott TreadMills Challenge for BBC Radio 2 on November 16 and finished on November 17 at 8.20am.

BBC Children in Need – 2022
Scott Mills at the BBC Children In Need telethon at BBC Studios in Salford (Danny Lawson/PA)

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mills said: “I just want to say thank you to everyone (who has donated).

“It’s been such a ride, I honestly didn’t think in these times we would even get close to that amount and I’m truly grateful.”

He also said he was a “mixture of exhausted and exhilarated” but has no plans to sleep due to the adrenaline he still feels.

– Rugby legend completes series of ultra-marathons and raises over £2 million for motor neurone disease charities

In November, former Leeds Rhinos player Kevin Sinfield began his Ultra 7 in 7 Challenge, to run from BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh to Old Trafford in Manchester in a bid to raise £777,777 for five motor neurone disease (MND) charities.

Ultra 7 in 7 Challenge – Day Six – York to Bradford
Kevin Sinfield during day six of the Ultra 7 in 7 Challenge (Isaac Parkin/PA)

Sinfield was inspired to take on the challenge because several people he knew had the condition, including his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Rob Burrow, ex-Bradford City captain Stephen Darby and the late Doddie Weir, who died from MND on November 26 and was a Scottish rugby union player.

He raised just under £2.1 million by the time of Weir’s death – completing the challenge on November 19 – and said in a statement: “I know, on behalf of the whole Ultra 7 in 7 team, it was our ultimate honour that Doddie was at Murrayfield just two weeks ago when we set off on our fundraising challenge.

“I am honoured to have been able to call Doddie my friend and I know his spirit lives on in all of us who knew him. He will always be a champion.”

– Lionesses leap to victory in Euro 2022, the Australian jungle and beyond

2022 was the year of football fever, with the Lionesses inspiring many young females to take up – or continue with – the sport and reach for the stars after winning the women’s Euros in July.

England’s Euro 2022 success – Trafalgar Square
England’s Jill Scott on stage during a fan celebration to commemorate England’s historic UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 triumph (James Manning/PA)

The popularity of the team members was also apparent to see off the pitch, with former footballer Jill Scott, who was part of the winning squad, also securing victory in I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! because of her willingness to take on any challenge and her general lovely presence on the show.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022
Beth Mead poses with The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award (David Davies/PA)

Beth Mead – who scored six goals and provided five assists during the Euros – was also awarded for her performance in the football competition by winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year for 2022, in December.

She said of the win: “Most of all, this is for women’s sport, and for women’s sport heading in the right direction. So let’s keep pushing girls and let’s keep doing the right thing.”