It was a night to remember, filled with tears and laughter.

The audience rose to their feet to cheer the inspiring finalists and winners at this year’s Scottish Learning Disability Awards, with many moved to tears by their stories.

The awards shine a spotlight on the rarely celebrated achievements of people with learning disabilities and those who work with and for them.

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey attended the glittering ceremony, organised by the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) and held at the Sheraton Grand, Edinburgh, as part of Scotland’s Learning Disability Week.

She told the finalists: “You are role models and have the capacity to lead others to achieve, too.

“Your efforts inspire others to aspire, to dream and strive to reach their full potential.

“You make our communities better places in which to live. That’s a wonderful achievement.”

The awards were in eight categories: Sport Achievement, Creative Communities, Support in Work, Community Enterprise, Skills and Learning, Family Carer, Volunteering in your Community, and Community Champion.

SCLD chief executive Charlie McMillan said: “Our finalists highlight the contribution that people with learning disabilities can make to their community when they are given the right opportunities and support to realise their hopes and ambitions.”

We spoke to each of the winners, discovering how the Scottish Learning Disability Awards have helped to celebrate the talent and dedication of people with learning disabilities across the country.

Sport Achievement

Winner: Lewis McDermid

Highly commended: Josh Rogers

Sport transformed Lewis McDermid’s life after he had been bullied at school when he was younger.

Through the encouragement of a teacher at primary school, he became involved in athletics and has gone on to great success, with 24 gold, 16 silver and 13 bronze medals in disciplines ranging from the Javelin to the 100 metres.

He is his school’s Ambassador for Additional Support Needs.

“Sport has really helped my confidence,” said Lewis, 17.

His mum, Tracey McDermid, said: “I’m so proud of him – he’s fantastic.

“He’s come on leaps and bounds. He used to never speak to anyone but last year he ran for head boy and spoke in front of the whole school.”

Creative Communities

Winner: ShowDowns! Drama Group

Highly commended: Andrew Moodie

ShowDowns! Drama Group has 20 young people and adults with Down’s syndrome who work alongside volunteers to develop performances they share with audiences.

The group started in 2011 and their creative ambition has grown along with their confidence as they work together in a safe environment where everyone’s contribution is valued and appreciated.

They are currently working towards their most ambitious project, Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Artistic Director Clare Hume said: “I’m so proud of them all.

“They’ve been absolutely amazing. They have their own interpretations of the plays and parts and I’m continually amazed and delighted with what they come up with.

“They are all friends and the drama group is very sociable. They are devoted to each other and so excited to have their achievements recognised this way.”

Support in Work

Winner: Leeann Jenkinson

Highly commended: Natalie Macdonald

Leeann Jenkinson has hugely improved the lives and prospects of young people with learning disabilities, helping them into jobs in her role as adviser at West College Scotland.

She also makes a positive difference to their lives by helping them become more confident and outgoing.

Highly esteemed by the people she supports, Leeann is an exceptional job coach who is also appreciated by employers for the support and advice she provides.

She said: “I was overwhelmed to be nominated and shell-shocked to have won. I love my job.”

She accepted the award with one of the young people she has helped, Sean Devlin, 24, who is now a facilities management apprentice at Inverkip Community Hub, after being taken on as an intern.

“People with learning disabilities make wonderful employees as they have great commitment, time keeping and work ethics,” said Leeann.

Community Enterprise

Winner: The Sunshine Kitchen

Highly commended: Elliot Ballantyne

The Sunshine Kitchen, based in Cupar, Fife, is a project for adults with additional support needs.

They make delicious food from locally sourced produce in a supportive work environment.

The Sunshine Kitchen sells food products at local farmers’ markets and also has a catering service.

Director Brenda Steffens said: “We are very excited and extremely pleased to have won this award, and I’m so proud of the team who have worked so hard.

“It’s lovely to see them get the chance to shine.”

Chloe Hutchison, 19, said: “I’m so happy, I'm crying with happiness.”

And Julia Stednit, 22, said: “I like getting together with my friends to cook.”

Family Carer

Winner: David Mitchell

Highly commended: Mia Zielinska

David Mitchell was recognised for the care he gives his son, also called David, who has complex needs.

He has cared for his son for all his 22 years, providing intense, round-the-clock care, while remaining a positive and enthusiastic person.

“My son has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other conditions that mean he is in a wheelchair and can’t look after himself,” said David, 53, from Ladybank, Fife, who has been a single parent for the last five years and has another son, Scott, 17.

“I was gobsmacked to win the award and so pleased. I’m not doing anything that any other parent wouldn’t do – he’s my bairn and you just have to get on with it as there’s no option.

“What David needs, he gets.”

Volunteering in Your Community

Winner: Dean Stewart

Highly commended: Katie MacKinlay

Dean Stewart, 31, is a volunteer making a huge difference to the lives of young people with special needs through his work at Special Needs Action Project (SNAP) in Inverness.

Jenni Campbell, of SNAP, said: “Dean overcame his own challenges to become a regular volunteer, making connections with young people and helping to create a fun and positive atmosphere.

“Dean is a mentor for new volunteers and a great role model for young people.

“I couldn’t be more proud of him. He lights up everyone’s day.”

Dean said: “I’m really pleased to have won the award.

“I enjoy working and I like to share my sense of humour.”

Community Champion

Winner: Greg Brands

Highly commended: Steven George

Greg Brands, 26, makes a difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities in Aberdeen through his support, enthusiasm, friendship and hard work.

He volunteers at Create Aberdeen, setting up rooms and equipment for arts and performance activities, and is a DJ.

Greg also volunteers at a primary school.

Alex Constantinides, of Create Aberdeen, said: “Greg has repeatedly shown an instinct for when people need additional attention and support.”

His mum, Corinne Brands, 56, said: “I’m so proud of him – I couldn't ask for a better son.”

Greg said: “I’m pleased and excited to have won this award.

“I love volunteering and helping other people through my music.”

Skills and Learning

Winner: Kyle Garden

Highly commended: Peter Fleming

Kyle Garden, 32, has shown remarkable growth since he moved from his family home in the village of Buckie to his new home in the town of Elgin.

Kyle cycles to his day services and travels independently around his local area.

He does all his own washing and ironing, is learning to cook and takes on duties in his shared accommodation, such as making sure the house is secure.

Gemma Taylor, of Cornerstone, who support Kyle, said: “We are so proud of him – he’s so much more confident and independent now.

“He’s shown that having a learning disability doesn’t stop you doing what you want to do in life.”

Kyle said: “I’m pleased and proud to win this award.”