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Niki's legacy set to live on through gong

By This is Sussex  |  Posted: November 12, 2010

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DEDICATED Heathfield representative Niki Oakes will be honoured posthumously through an awards ceremony celebrating the achievements of the county's athletes.

The person named disabled sports personality of the year at the annual Sussex Sports Awards, will be presented with the Councillor Niki Oakes Memorial Award.

Mrs Oakes, a double amputee who sat on Heathfield parish and Wealden district councils, died in June when she failed to recover from an operation to remove her bladder.

Her parents Hazel and Jack Mitchell, of Ridegway Close, thought the award was a fitting tribute to their 59-year-old daughter, who played hockey, netball and other sports as a youngster.

"I think she would be very flattered and pleased," Mrs Mitchell said.

"She was very athletic as a youngster and she was always very interested in the young people.

"She so enjoyed life really although she had more to put up with than most."

Mrs Oakes worked as a veterinary surgeon in Peterborough but had to stop practising when her problematic back began to cause her excruciating pain.

It eventually led to hospital treatment but complications resulted in her having to have both legs amputated.

It was after this that she moved back to Heathfield to be closer to her family and decided she wanted to "do something worthwhile".

She joined the parish council in 2001 and was later elected as the member for Heathfield North and Central for Wealden District Council.

Her colleagues at the district council have sponsored the award to be handed out in her memory today (Friday) at the ceremony in Brighton.

Peter Newnham, chairman of the parish council and one of Mrs Oakes' close friends, said: "What they really wanted it to show was that people with disabilities can still do wonderful things in public life and Niki was a prime example of that."

There are three nominees up for her award, which is anticipated to become an annual accolade at the ceremony.

Mrs Mitchell hoped her daughter's trophy would inspire generations of disabled youngsters, sporty or otherwise.

"I think she would have loved to get over to them that just because you've lost a leg or whatever, life does go on and there's so many good things that you can do," she said.

"It doesn't end as it were, keep going, keep trying."

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