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2nd Hydref 2017

Immediate Release – with pics


A Wales-based mum who set up a not-for-profit company educating children on water safety after losing her son in a tragic drowning broke down in tears after learning she would be honoured with a Special Achievement Award at this year’s National Lottery Awards.

Debbie Turnbull, who lives in Flintshire, received the amazing surprise in front of a star-studded audience which included Martin Clunes, Martin Kemp, Kimberly Walsh and Tamzin Outhwaite.

Millions of TV viewers will see the celebrities join in a special standing ovation for Debbie as Awards host Ore Oduba and adventurer Bear Grylls, a hero of Debbie’s, make the shock announcement.

The National Lottery Awards will be broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday 27 September.

Every parent’s worst nightmare came true for Debbie Turnbull 11 years ago when her teenage son Chris drowned while swimming with friends. Debbie has dealt with her loss by helping other people, and she set up River And Sea Sense to try to prevent another family going through the same pain.

She is being recognised for her inspirational work using nearly £15,000 of National Lottery funding to teach water safety and CPR to children and young adults across Wales and the UK.

It is hard to estimate how many lives may be saved by Debbie’s work - her emotional story means pupils rarely forget the message she spreads.

A moving film of Debbie giving one of her water safety talks to young people with EastEnders star Samantha Janus will be shown on the programme. Debbie thought she was being filmed for another programme, and had not realised that she had won this special award.

Debbie Turnbull of River And Sea Sense said:

“I am shocked and honoured to receive this award.

“By October I’ll have addressed almost 200,000 children, and every one I speak to helps me make some sense of what happened to Chris.

“National Lottery funding has helped me reach out to these young people to give them a simple message: enjoy playing in water, but be aware of its dangers.

“Winning this special National Lottery Award is recognition of the importance of this message, and I’d like to thank National Lottery players for supporting this and so many other life-changing, amazing charities.”

Ore Oduba, who will presenting the show for the first time, added:

“The National Lottery Awards celebrate the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded projects as voted for by the public. They give deserved recognition to ordinary people who do extraordinary things with National Lottery funding.

“Their stories will make you smile, they will make you cry, but above all, if you play the National Lottery, they will make you swell with pride to have supported these inspirational individuals and organisations.

“Debbie Turnbull is a remarkable woman of great courage and conviction who has helped so many people.”

National Lottery players have been changing lives for 22 years - they currently raise over £30 million every week for projects across the UK. The National Lottery Awards recognise and celebrate the difference that Lottery-funded organisations, both large and small, make to local communities the length and breadth of the UK.


  • River And Sea Sense has received three grants of National Lottery funding through the Big Lottery Fund - £4,955, £4,985 and £4,951, totalling £14,891.
  • Chris Turnbull was out with friends swimming at Lligwy Falls, Capel Curig on August 14, 2006. Within seconds, and completely unaware of the danger he was in, the 15-year-old was sucked into a whirlpool where his foot became trapped and he drowned.


National Lottery Awards host Ore Oduba with Special Achievement Award winner Debbie Turnbull and adventurer Bear Grylls, who surprised her with the Award

Debbie and John Turnbull, with their Special Achievement Award at the National Lottery Awards

Higher resolution and further images available upon request.

For more information and images, please contact:

Jackie Aplin on 07917 791873 or email