Yorkshire and Humberside region volunteer awards announced

Yorkshire and Humberside's regional volunteer awards evening took place on 28 November at Darrington Golf Club.

Chair of the Regional Council Moira Gallagher welcomed everyone and introduced council members and England Athletics staff members in attendance. Sam Barlow from Fitmums and Friends who last year won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Unsung Hero award also spoke with CEO Chris Jones.

Moira said to all those present,

"You may not often get thanked for this but your involvement is very much appreciated. Those people who receive awards this evening are just the tip of the iceberg."

Club of the Year - Winner: Vale of York Athletic Community

The 2022 Club of the Year has certainly made their mark in such a short time. Their community-centred focus is welcoming and inclusive of all athletes and runners, regardless of age or ability.

Their work with the local council and charities ensures that sessions are open to everyone, providing equipment and free athletics sessions to children from deprived backgrounds. Their work doesn’t stop here, and the club have also run a 20-week programme to help 100 inactive adults to lead a healthy lifestyle and enjoy physical activity.

Since starting from scratch, in the recent year the club have managed to raise over £10,000 to buy athletics and fitness equipment to support their members, increasing their coaching team and volunteers. This year’s winner is Vale of York Athletic Community.

Club of the Year - Runner up: Scunthorpe and District Running Club

Despite recently parting from their athletics club, this running club has gone from strength to strength. Throughout all sessions, they ensure that members feel safe and supported. Their friendly and knowledgeable Run Leaders are innovative, ensuring that each session provides something different and caters to all abilities to allow runners to progress.

The sense of community spirit radiates throughout everything that they do, from beginners’ courses to club time trials, monthly awards, and weekly social events. Congratulations Scunthorpe and District Running Club.

Coach of the Year - Winner: Nigel Brookes (Rotherham Harriers & AC)

This year’s Coach of the Year is more than just a running coach, but a huge support in the life of his athletes in the Fast Girls Group. He carries an extensive knowledge of the sport and how to make the best runners but is also empathetic and dedicated in making sure everyone in the group is happy and having fun.

His love for the sport is infectious and he believes in every member of the group regardless of ability, celebrating every athlete giving attainable targets to all. He’s approachable and is constantly learning and wanting to improve himself to support others. The needs of the athlete are always put first, ensuring everyone is healthy or supported when injured.

Whether there is one athlete at training, or the full group, Nigel Brookes is always dedicated and will be there to help.

Coach of the Year - Runner up: Steve Robinson (Kingston Upon Hull AC)

This year’s runner up is a selfless coach, giving countless hours to his young academy athletes. He encourages the children to try different events with a real love and passion for the sport.

His expert guidance gives the athletes confidence as they progress from the academy sessions. This coach always ensures that he is flexible, and sessions are adaptive depending on the athletes and numbers who attend. He ensures that there are exciting fundamental games for younger athletes, whilst supporting older athletes with more information about their training.

Steve Robinson is the perfect first coach for many athletes at the club and has created the foundations for many of the competing athletes within the club.

Inspiring Official - Winner: Tom Smeeton (Leeds AC)

This year’s Inspiring Official award goes to a young man who has been in officiating for around ten years, completing his level four award whilst balancing his studies at university. All his hard work was recognised this summer as he was one of the Chief Field Judges at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, a real accolade of his officiating career so far.

Tom Smeeton doesn’t only shine on the international stage, he is also regularly at local, regional, and national meetings supporting with all tasks and helping the technical teams. He remains calm under pressure, encourages his peers, and has a great sense of humour.

Newcomer to Volunteering - Winner: Jaimie Farrand (Savvy Park Runrz)

The winner of the Newcomer to Volunteering award works tirelessly behind the scenes and is always proactive. Despite the club only starting 18 months ago, she has undertaken two committee roles as both the Secretary and Membership Secretary. She is willing to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in and has demonstrated this always carrying out kit and admin tasks which many take for granted.

Jaimie Farrand really is the key to Savvy Park Runrz and is the perfect voice of reason for the other committee members.

Newcomer to Volunteering - Runner up: Liz Willans (Fitmums and Friends)

The Newcomer to Volunteering runner up has made a huge impact on the community since qualifying as a LiRF last year, leading running and walking groups as well as delivering a Together in Grief group for local adults. After losing her own husband four years earlier, she came to Fitmums and Friends for extra support during this challenging time and has since gone on to support others in this position showing outstanding compassion.

Liz Willans’ energy is contagious and is always encouraging and supporting others in her sessions. Despite suffering loss, she has found a new meaning and direction and has gone to achieve so much with the club.

Club Leader of the Year - Winner: Raymond Hall (Halifax Harriers & AC)

The winner of the Club Leader of the Year award has been a crucial part of Halifax Harriers & AC, having held six roles at the club! Due to poor health, he has not been able to be as active in the day to day running, but this hasn’t stopped him. He continues to share his vast knowledge with coaches, athletes, and officials, as well as welcoming new members to the club.

During a recent renovation, his innovation led to securing a new club house facility, working with the local council to ensure the club could continue to function well.

On top of all his committee roles, Raymond Hall also found time to lead his very own road running group, devising new routes for runners to enjoy!

Club Leader of the Year - Runner up: Mark Spence (Savvy Park Runrz)

The runner-up for the Club Leader of the Year award is not only a Run Leader, but also the Club Chairman after coming up with the idea to form Savvy Park Runrz during Covid. He was instrumental in setting up the club, securing funding, helping the community, and even getting a defibrillator installed.

His positive and enthusiastic spirit has seen the club go from a couple of friends to around 100 members, from strength to strength. His encouraging nature has seen some runners even go on to complete their LiRF! Without Mark Spence, there wouldn’t be a Savvy Park Runrz, and his dedication has been fantastic.

Community Project of the Year - Winner: Laura Gulley (Fitmums and Friends)

The Community Project of the Year award winner has worked with local charity Sight Support on her project ‘SocialEYES’.

Founder Laura Gulley facilitates three sessions per week for adults aged 16+ who suffer with sight loss or blindness. This project has been incredible for the community and has changed the lives of the visually impaired across the Humber. Supporting and encouraging people of all abilities to come together and get active to get active from walking, to running and strength and conditioning. Without Laura’s innovation and the support of the volunteer guides within the club, this would not be possible.

Community Project of the Year - Runner up: Sam Swift (Trail Snails Bingley)

After leading Trail Snails Bingley for several years, this year’s runner-up noticed a gap on the support for mental health in her area. She has since approached the NHS, secured funding, and set up a brand-new parkrun in the local area enabling 300+ members of the local community to run, walk or volunteer each week. Her work on securing funding and partnering with a local GP practice has been many over 60s get active again and take part.

Sam Swift is battling chronic kidney disease, but she doesn’t let this stop her passion for making the parkrun a success, remaining positive and helping the community.

Services to Athletics and Running - Winner: Margaret Saville (Cleethorpes AC)

The winner of the Services to athletics and running award has been involved with Cleethorpes AC for a staggering 38 years! She devotes her time to coaching her group of 9–13-year-olds, never missing a session. Her support for the club doesn’t stop there, as she is also a long-standing committee member as a Vice Chair, Welfare Officer, and County DBS verifier.

She truly is at the heart of the club, supporting athletes in the various local leagues and competitions as both a coach and a qualified official, often leading field teams.

Margaret Saville’s loyalty to the club is second to none, and she continues to inspire young athletes and has been the first coach for many who have gone on to great success.

Photos by Melissa Gresswell