West Midlands 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.

Walsall in the West Midlands was the venue to celebrate our amazing volunteers in that region. Katharine Merry hosted the evening and Acting Regional Chair Dave Lodwick presented the awards to the winners and runners up in ten categories.

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

  • Athletics Coach of the Year – Mike Bennett (Worcester AC)
  • Athletics Official of the Year – Ian Atkins (Worcester AC)
  • Athletics or Running Club of the Year – Cleobury Mortimer Running Club
  • Inclusion Award – Lichfield Running Club
  • RunTogether Group of the Year – Crabbs Cross Chasers
  • RunTogether Leader of the Year – Dylan Gould (Lickey End Striders)
  • Spirit of 2012 Award – Paul and Joanne Evans (Black Pear Joggers)
  • Volunteer of the Year - Lyn Orbell (Birchfield Harriers)
  • Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) – Dan Parton (Birchfield Harriers)
  • Services to Athletics or Running – Derek Cowdrey (Worcester AC)

Click here or scroll right down to see Runners up.

Athletics Coach of the Year – Mike Bennett (Worcester AC)

His nominator writes: I don’t think there is a coach out there that gives as much time and effort towards his athletes as Mike does. He is constantly driving up and down the country supporting and helping his athletes, putting our needs before his own. Without him, many of his athletes wouldn’t be able to achieve what they have in athletics as they wouldn’t be able to make it to training/competitions without him. As well as this he also creates incredibly detailed training plans that are adapted to individuals to suit them and get the best out of them. He has managed for at least the last 10 years, to have numerous athletes at English Schools', with the majority of whom came to him having never done athletics before. Mike is also a very accepting coach, who welcomes any athlete; he has coached athletes of all ages and abilities including para athletes. Mike has often helped lead coaching courses, passing on his knowledge and experiences with the objective of helping others when he can.

Mike’s athletes, including myself, feel he deserves a lot of praise for what he has done for all of us. He tells us he gets his sense of achievement from watching us succeed, but we feel he deserves his own achievement for everything he does.

Athletics Official of the Year – Ian Atkins (Worcester AC)

Ian has mentored his nominator for 2 years now and has shown his excellence in training and coaching. Ian works tirelessly both in and out of region and across a range of fixtures. Ian is the linch pin in local meetings covering his hosting club and their fixtures - including open meetings as well as supporting clubs who have found themselves without starters, especially at short notice. Ian's knowledge of the rule book is clear and I am yet to ask him a question he cannot answer. Ian is a grassroots work-anywhere official supporting the next generation to also be the best they can. I would like to see Ian recognised for the work he does for athletics. Supporting clubs not only so they can host open and league meetings but supporting new officials and maling them feel valued.

Athletics or Running Club of the Year – Cleobury Mortimer Running Club

CMRC already has over 100 members, managed to stage a hugely successful 10k race in July (worked with local businesses and scout groups - 180 runners - none from the club as they all volunteered) and is now a vital and high profile part of this rural community. It offers 3 beginners' programmes a year which are well attended by people of all ages, shapes and sizes. The club caters equally to the very fast, those who want to run long distance and those who are building up to their first 5k, with 4 different ability groups run by fantastic supportive leaders. The Club provides the core team and highest number of volunteers at Wyre Forest parkrun.

Throughout the club there is an ethos of 'mustering back so that no one gets left behind or feels like they are holding people up. The league races have been well attended producing some outstanding PBs which are celebrated by everyone, not just those who achieve them. The members also love a party recently celebrating one member's achievement of running 100 marathons!

The nominator says, "Until the age of 38 I thought I hated running. Now at 39 I absolutely love it! The day I started I could only manage 200 metres and I've now completed half marathons and and training for my first marathon and it's all down to CMRC."

The Club of the Year award was collected by Club Chair and coach Jo Watson, coach and Treasurer Andie Ford, and Vice Chair, Race Director and LiRF leader Ian Steele. “We’ve come such a long way in the past 3 years; an idea and eight of us has grown to 108, with another beginners’ course starting next week. Every member volunteered to help at our inaugural 10k, rather than run in it. The event was a phenomenal experience for the whole town. It’s a reall all-club effort, everyone’s supportive of each other, and everyone’s a winner.”

Inclusion Award – Lichfield Running Club

The Lichfield running club was founded in 1893, and is comprised of a number of different people, from men, women, the young and old, disabled or not, and they make anybody and everybody feel welcome and part of the running community.

The nominator writes, "They have been immensely supportive and helpful with my training despite my disability which effects my sight and speech and causes weak bones and muscles. They are always willing to go the extra mile and put themselves out for their members."

RunTogether Group of the Year – Crabbs Cross Chasers

Originally formed just 8 months ago, Crabbs Cross Chasers is a social running group, meeting twice a week, that welcomes runners of all abilities and all backgrounds. Whilst running with the group is free, and therefore open to those with low income, there is a charity bucket for any entirely voluntary donations and the club have so far raised over £630 for local charities including the Midlands Air Ambulance and a local mental health charity.

Members of the group are very supportive of each other and nobody is ever left to run on their own. The emphasis of our runs is fun, enjoyment and social interaction but the leaders are always available to offer advice or signposting to any member with a question, whether running or health-related. They offer a free, group social run to anyone (over-12), encouraging all abilities and backgrounds. In addition to the personal satisfaction of running with such a friendly group, they also raise funds for those less fortunate than themselves.

Doug Richards and Julie Swain collected the volunteer award on behalf of Crabbs Cross Chasers. “Thank you! We feel very overwhelmed – we’re a relatively new group but it is an awesome membership and we enjoy each other’s company each week. It’s lovely to raise money for good causes as well as improve our fitness.

RunTogether Leader of the Year – Dylan Gould (Lickey End Striders)

Dylan has always offered his time to support people with running. He became involved with parkrun 6 years ago, then did his LiRF course, followed by his CiRF course a couple of years ago. Dylan has supported some of his runners to go on and complete their LiRF courses and has also supported the inclusion of mental health ambassadors and the #RunAndTalk ethos.

He helped out 3 years ago with Lickey End Striders when there were around 6-10 people each week and 2 years ago became the leader of the group. The group has grown and now has 20-30 people attend each run. The group is a very friendly and inclusive group and the social aspect is very important. The fun they have is publicised on RunTogether and Dylan takes pride in posting up their photographs and celebrating the group's achievements.

Dylan is fairly reserved and would be humbled to think he has been nominated. He gives lots of unseen time in planning and supporting his group and also the Running community of Redditch and Bromsgrove.

Dylan said after receiving his award, “I’m just really pleased to win – thanks to all who nominated. To be a good leader you need a good group; thanks to Lickey End Striders for all their support.”

Services to Athletics or Running – Derek Cowdrey (Worcester AC)

A member of Worcester AC for 32+ years; a committee member for 22+ and a Timekeeper for 25+ years, turning out rain or shine for regional meets. Derek is also qualified as Starter Marksman (a discipline the club lacked) as he wanted greater contact with athletes. He acts as Meeting Manager for all the club's track an field meetings, including buying and making the official’s refreshments!

Webmaster is another unofficial title he holds. He is always first to put his hand up for helping with the club's endurance events. He was a key worker in staging the annual Acorns Children’s Hospice Triple Run. He is Club Officials' Secretary - ensuring that the clubs’ commitments to track and field leagues are met. The club field highly qualified teams, due to his organisation of our volunteer resources. He is master of detail, scoring for club champs and Young Athlete meets. He is the Birmingham League XC official during cold wet winters! He has served as Chairman and is current Secretary and is the club's rep at county Athletics Assoc.

"He is the foundation stone of our club; the backbone to this sport - fair play and safety, he insists on. There are many “Dereks”, who keep athletic clubs alive and thriving; but we think ours unique!"

After accepting his award, Derek said, "The reason I can do it is because of my wife Janet. I just enjoy it (most of the time!)." Awards evening host Katharine Merry commented that Derek was a Volunteer decathlete with all the roles he undertakes!

Spirit of 2012 Award – Paul and Joanne Evans (Black Pear Joggers)

Paul and Joanne attended the Team Spirit Champions in Birmingham and have used the knowledge to further Black Pear Joggers; to reward their volunteers, they have incorporated Mental Health Champions into their work, looking after runners and volunteers. They have a dedicated page on the website to support people who might want to become a run leader and have clear ways of contacting members of the committee who are there to support volunteers.

Their website is full of supportive statements, highlighting the work of the volunteers and celebrating what they do. Their online facebook community brings people together to further the club in the most positive of ways, with the volunteers at the forefront of everyone's mind. Regular thank you’s, celebrations of volunteers and clear volunteer journeys with the club make BPJ a wonderful place to volunteer.

Paul told us, “It’s wonderful to be here to see all these people being celebrated and what they’ve all achieved.” Local England Athletics Club Support Manager Steph Cameron added, “Black Pear Joggers are a really modern club in their approach to volunteering, and fully embrace the volunteer journey.”

Volunteer of the Year - Lyn Orbell (Birchfield Harriers)

Lyn volunteers in many different capacities in athletics. She is a throws coach at Birchfield, offering sessions 4 days a week. She is also a team manager for YDL, and sits on the club's committee. Lyn also volunteers at all major events, most recently at the IAAF World Championships (both indoor and outdoor).

Lyn also volunteers her time as the Chair and of the UK Woman's Athletics League, the chair of the England Athletics Eligibility Committee as well as sitting on other UKA committees. She also visits Englan Athletics head office regularly, and always brings treats for staff!

Lyn offers so much of her time to athletics, in so many different roles, and is one of the most passionate athletics fans I have ever met, she has a wealth of knowledge around all areas of the sport, and is always free to help anyone in the sport.

Lynn Orbell was also celebrating her birthday on the presentation evening! “I’m more at ease being a Team Manager – around the sweaty bodies – I love being with the athletes at a competition. I also had the best teachers; Norma Blaine MBE and Nelson Neale MBE.”

Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) – Dan Parton (Birchfield Harriers)

Dan is an expsional coach to all of his athletes, he encourages them, supports them and most importantly believes in them. Dan shows passion for all events he coach’s and has a can do attitude. He puts training sessions on 7 times a week if needed and travels all around the midlands to support in competitions. By doing all he does Dan is filling children with knowledge, confidence and a sense of achievement, but most importantly keeping them off the streets and providing them with a focus.

Dan should win this award to recognise all his hard work, dedication and determination. Dan goes the extra mile to provide the athletes with the confidence to achieve goals giving them a sense of pride and believing in themselves.

Dan told us, "The most enjoyable thing is that you learn something new every day – there’s never a dull day." Fellow volunteer Mary Delaney who works with Dan added “A lot of young kids look up to him.”

Runners Up

  • Athletics Coach Liam Tracey
  • Athletics Official – Steve Webb
  • Athletics or Running Club – Stoke F.I.T.
  • RunTogether Group – Liam's Run Together
  • RunTogether Leader – Sian Ryan
  • Services to Athletics or Running – Eric Cartwright
  • Volunteer - Lynne Moody