There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Luton grandfather Phil Rutter, who’s registered blind, was crowned Family Hero for Greater London at a gala dinner in the capital.
The former HR manager from Barton Hills said he was “flabbergasted” to be presented with the Take a Break magazine and charity 4Children award.
He was nominated for his work with children’s bereavement charity CHUMS.
Modest Phil, 67, who lost his sight in 1972 after suffering detached retinas in both eyes, said: “I don’t think what I do is anything out of the ordinary. It’s good to be able to give something back because so many people help me.
“I was amazed to be shortlisted and it was brilliant to get the award, but I’m more pleased for CHUMS than for me.
“The main star is my guide dog Marcus, a black flat coat Retriever.” He explained children were often very nervous when they came to the charity initially: “Then they see Marcus and come over and fuss him. That gives me a chance to introduce myself.”
CHUMS spokeswoman Sue Clarke, who nominated the father-of-two, said; “Children see this lovely man, fearless in his blindness and not afraid to laugh at himself.
“With his gentle encouragement and a little time stroking his guide dog, they soon settle in and find their feet. He is one of the world’s true gentlemen and we are lucky to have him as a volunteer.”
Phil is utterly devoted to CHUMS. He even walked on hot coals earlier this year, raising £1,000 at a firewalk challenge.
He joked at the time: “I’ve got such sensitive feet I wince when I walk on gravel – I was talked into it.”
An awards spokeswoman described Phil – a former chairman of Luton & Dunstable Guide Dogs – as “different from other volunteers.”
She said: “He was initially unsure of the contribution he could make.
“But he soon discovered that his guide dog would be a tremendous asset. Phil’s kind and gentle manner and his popular companion proved to be highly effective in encouraging children to open up and deal with their grief, particularly those who were shy or introverted.”
The award was presented by television personality Emma Forbes who said: “Phil is one of those incredible people whose selfless actions have been worth their weight in gold to others . . . these awards give family heroes like Phil the recognition they truly deserve.”
Anne Longfield of 4Children added: “His bravery show there is always reason for hope and optimism.”