North East volunteer award winners

The Volunteer Awards 2018 are a chance to celebrate and recognise the unsung heroes amongst all of our volunteers in the Athletics and Running community - volunteers across England have been nominated in 10 categories, and the winners in each of the nine Regions will be announced over the next few weeks. Winners are then put forward to our National Volunteer Awards.

Our England Athletics regional Volunteer Awards presentation evenings are now complete and the North West awards took place on 17 September. The North West region winners received their volunteer awards at a presentation evening in Leigh to recognise volunteers for their dedication and commitment to our sport.

The winners are listed here and excerpts from their nominations are below.

  • Athletics Coach of the Year - John Smith (Sale Harriers)
  • Athletics Official of the Year - Sheila Whitta (West Cheshire Athletic Club)
  • Athletics or Running Club of the Year - West Cheshire Athletic Club
  • RunTogether Group of the Year - Ossy Joggers
  • RunTogether Leader of the Year - Clive Barley
  • Volunteer of the Year - Sonia Harris (Manchester Triathlon Club)
  • Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) - Jessica Morrissey (Manchester Harriers & Athletic Club)
  • Spirit of 2012 Award - Barbara Murray (Macclesfield Harriers)
  • Services to Athletics or Running - Bob Lynch

Athletics Coach of the Year - John Smith (Sale Harriers)

John has been coaching for the last 30 years and has put a lot of himself and time into athletics. His nominator writes, "It has been a privilege and an honour to work with him as a parent and a coach."

He has mentored many over the years - passing on knowledge he has learned - and is open to ideas that would benefit the club's athletes. Together we work well as a team enabling our athletes to reach their maximum potential and be able to continue through the age groups through to senior levels.

In my opinion John should win for his commitment to the athletes and the club. He has inspired me and others to coach and get involved. He has given up his time for free and is always available for support."

Athletics Official of the Year - Sheila Whitta (West Cheshire Athletic Club)

Sheila Whitta has been making a massive effort to provide officiating support to her local area for over 25 years. She has been a member of West Cheshire AC from the start and has supported and developed new officials coming into the sport.

West Cheshire AC can boast to being one of the best clubs for the number of active officials - Sheila’s continued involvement has played a part to this success.

As well as supporting her own club officials, Sheila positively supports and mentors other officials during local, regional and national meetings. Sheila is well respected within her club and across the regions.

Sheila has officiated to the highest level, meetings such as Olympic Games & British Championships. Sheila was seriously injured during the Manchester International last year when the wind caught a discus and this would have put a lot of people off. This has not stopped her officiating, once Sheila was recovered she was back out there in the thick of it.

Sheila is always there to help people develop and grow, she is a very approachable person and has a lovely nature.

Athletics or Running Club of the Year - West Cheshire Athletic Club

West Cheshire AC caters for everyone aged 8 and above in every sphere of athletics and, as a voluntary organization, has demonstrated bags of passion, commitment, and enthusiasm to work successfully within the community. During the last 12 months it has strengthened its links with primary and secondary schools, University of Chester, and Cheshire West and South College, to organize sportshall athletcs, cross country, track and field and road running competitions.

The club competes in division one of the North of England track & field league, fields teams in both the YDL lower and upper divisions and Cheshire league, is a member of the north west sportshall league, borders road running league, and is represented in the North Staffs, Manchester, Liverpool and North Wales XC leagues.

The club encourages parents to assist at training sessions and volunteer at competitions alongside its respected squad of graded officials.

West Cheshire AC provides a lifeline for grassroots athletics in chester and ellesmere port and the sport would struggle to exist in the area without the clubs love, care and support.

Inclusion Award - Didsbury Runners

Didsbury Runners recently began delivering running sessions to people with Down's Syndrome, in partnership with Down's Syndrome Association. The response has been great, and it’s been clear to see that people have been enjoying it and high fives have been plentiful.

The club now has four guide runners for visually impaired people. One of these guides has been running with a visually impaired runner on a one-to-one basis, and they’ve now begun running at Didsbury Runners sessions and are planning their first parkrun!

The Club organize regular #RunAndTalkevents to get people talking about mental health. Fundraising events have taken place in aid of Mind, including: Run Everyday in January, Blue parkrun (where everyone dressed up in blue), and a 4k handicap run. The club now has a Mental Health Ambassador and 6 Mental Health Champions.

Couch to 5k sessions have been run regularly to support beginners and many of the runners taking part have gone on to do parkruns and 10k races.

Didsbury Runners have shown passion towards making the club as inclusive as possible. They’ve been innovative and committed in creating an ethos that everyone should be given equal opportunities to enjoy running, no matter who they are.

RunTogether Group of the Year - Ossy Joggers

Hyndburn has some of the most deprived areas with physical activity being lower than average and overweight and obesity being higher. By making sessions free, fun, varied, and inclusive, up to 200 people a week come to their sessions. By having a supportive, encouraging, inspiring group of run leaders not only have they improved people’s levels of fitness, they have supported people with grief, anxiety, low confidence and low self esteem. One of the biggest compliments is the group being referred to as their ‘OJ Family’.

When the group started it had one run leader, there is now a team of 10 invaluable run leaders. To cope with the success and volume of people coming the run buddy role was created and the group have now enlisted the help of 12 running buddies who support and help too.

80% of the people that attend the group are women. The uniqueness of this group means women feel at ease in a no pressure environment to get fit and most of all have fun! “It became free therapy.”

The reasons group members gave included: Supportive, Welcoming, Encouraging, Passionate, Inspiring, Dedicated, Fun, The Socials, The Hugs, The Time Given, Changing People’s Lives, Impacting the Community, Acknowledging Achievements, Belief in You.

RunTogether Leader of the Year - Clive Barley

Clive has established the Park View 4U Run Group from nothing to a devoted group of runners who range in age from people in their 20s to their 70s. It is especially welcoming for women and older runners, with regular C25k courses to introduce more people to running. He ensures there is a range of sessions for all abilities and manages to remember everyone's names despite there being over 100.

He has also organized sessions in support of Mental Health Awareness. It is not just a running group he’s created, it’s a truly diverse, inclusive and supportive family of runners. Clive didn’t let his recent hip replacement stop him and was back supporting the group within a couple of weeks.

He has also encouraged (and funded) many of the group to complete Run Leader training and ensures the group is properly supported with plans and facebook groups.
A regular charity fundraiser, he encourages involvement in volunteering, including the Great North Swim, parkrun and even Lytham Club Day.

Clive is a truly inspirational leader of the Park View 4U Run Group and has made running accessible and part of life for so many people within the community. His energy, enthusiasm and commitment are amazing. He has changed lives for the better.

Services to Athletics or Running - Bob Lynch (Macclesfield Harriers)

Bob has been with Macclesfield Harriers for over 40 years and has been instrumental in the growth of the club. He still holds a number of volunteer roles with the club and coaches / supports running groups on a refular basis.

Bob is the driving force at Macclesfield Harriers and has been for many years. Through his leadership the club has evolved into a thriving environment with strong fell running and junior T&F sections. Bob has worked tirelessly.

Spirit of 2012 Award - Barbara Murray (Macclesfield Harriers)

Barbara has been the heart and soul of the Macclesfield Harriers Game Changers Project. She has been the driving force and has made a difference in the young peoples lives through this programme.

The project has provided a positive and supportive environment for the ten young volunteers who initially were lacking in confidence and drive, however this project played an important part in turning this around.

The project has provided diverse opportunities to volunteers including officiating and supporting local club competitions, primary school cross country events, marshaling running events and supporting club training nights.

The group also gained a qualification to become an official, which is brilliant for their CV. This is also positive on England Athletics strategic priorities to increase the number of active officials.

The young volunteers have supported people from under-represented groups at different events and activities.

Barbara has shown a great desire and pride to drive this programme forward to achieve the end goals. This has been through countless hours from contacting local schools, liaising with local meets and mentoring the young volunteers, to name a few.

Volunteer of the Year - (Manchester Triathlon Club)

The Head Coach and Chair of Manchester Triathlon Club nominated one of their long-standing volunteers, Sonia Harris. "Our club is run wholly by volunteers and with over 500 members trying to co-ordinate anything is no easy task. "

Despite this, for the past 6 years Sonia has co-ordinated the Cross Country League, Road Relays, Club Annual ‘Chase the Ace’ and other informal running events.

On top of all that, Sonia turns up at all cross country races - come rain, shine, snow or sleet - to marshall for us and to pledge her support in her own unique and vibrant way.

Sonia is always there smiling and supporting all athletes, regardless of their club, willing them to keep pushing and smiling and to tap it out – she really is a true team player.

Sonia should be recognized for the huge number of hours she volunteers to coordinate our running events every year, and for her enthusiasm and dedication to keeping us all, at all levels of ability, involved.

Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) - Jessica Morrissey (Manchester Harriers & Athletic Club)

Jessica has been with the club since she was 8 years old, initially competing in Cross Country, Track & Field and any events she could. Her nominator says, "I have team managed Jess and over the years she has grown into an amazing individual. She is adopted and so are her brother (who has autism) and her sister, but this has no effect on Jess, she’s adorable."

In competing she always gave 100% training hard, always has a smile and never rude or cross. In recent years she has volunteered with Manchester Harriers and AC, doing more and more and is a role model to all.

Jessica coaches the 7 years plus beginners each week, has the leading athletics, coaching assistant and assistant official qualifications and has attended the 365 workshop in her spare time. She volunteers for 2 weeks of Startrack Summer Athletics each year, from 10am-3pm everyday, encouraging the youngsters and mentoring the new young leaders. She is always bubbly, eager ton help, learns quickly, always happy and smiling even when she fractured her ankle, she didn’t moan.

"Jessica deserves to win, as she has done so much for the club and never asked for anything from us. She is passionate about athletics and it would boost her confidence and celebrate her volunteering, the club would support this 100%."