‘Light in the darkness’: Grassroots heroes recognised at Alliance awards

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The winners of the Community Sport and Recreation Awards 2021 were revealed online tonight, as our annual event went virtual for the very first time.

More than 150 guests tuned into the ceremony which saw grassroots organisations from across the country recognised for their outstanding contribution to the community during an incredibly challenging year.

Celebrating initiatives in areas such as resilience and adversity, diversity and inclusion, and mental health and wellbeing, the awards paid tribute to the inspiring work of the sector in the current sporting landscape, with each winner picking up a prize of £1000.

The occasion opened with a message from Alliance President, HRH The Earl of Wessex, who spoke about the value of community initiatives to wider society and offered his congratulations to all the finalists.

We were also delighted to be joined by Active IQ, our award sponsors, who were on hand to deliver the good news to this year’s unsung heroes.

Everyone at the Alliance would like to thank those who attended and say a huge well done to our 2021 Community Sport and Recreation Award winners.

Diversity and Inclusion Award - Synergy Dance Outreach

Over the past 18 months, Synergy Dance Outreach has welcomed more than 10,000 people to its dance, fitness and yoga classes and events, helping to provide those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) with the same opportunities to get active as the non-disabled community.

Many of their beneficiary groups lead more sedentary lives than their non-disabled peers and feel more socially isolated but are offered a lifeline in the form of these subsidised or free classes.

Synergy also runs a Fun In The School Holidays (FISH) scheme which supports 600 10-16 year olds annually, with 60% of participants being from vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

Speaking at the awards, the charity said: “I pay homage to every project in this category and would like to say well done to everybody, as you said we are all winners.

“I’d like to give special thanks to our team of teaching talent who rose to the challenge of delivering over 200 online courses. With 14.1 million in the disability community, our goal really is to reach everyone so no one is left behind. Thank you so much, we’re absolutely blown away.”

Resilience in Adversity Award - Nottingham School of Boxing

Retaining engagement opportunities for its community during Covid-19 was vital for the Nottingham School of Boxing, whose members primarily reside in less affluent areas where access to space and facilities to exercise is limited.

They immediately responded by setting up six daily boxing sessions per week on Facebook that were accessible and inclusive for all. All known vulnerable members were contacted directly within the first week of lockdown and attributed coach and mentor contact numbers to help guide them through the pandemic.

In June, their sister charity, Switch Up, arranged for weekly food packages to be delivered to vulnerable families and the school continues to support those most in need more than eight months down the line.

Declan Best from the Nottingham School of Boxing spoke of the club’s delight after taking home the award.

“I’ve got to thank everyone connected to us as they’ve kept us motivated to plough on during this difficult time.

“Our members are amazing and it’s genuinely great fun for us to keep interacting with them throughout lockdown. This is a new world and it’s sometimes easy to question our approach but this award validates all the hard work that we’ve put in and motivates us to do a lot more so thank you so much.”

Sustainable Programme Award- South Cave Junior Football Club

South Cave Junior Football Club’s ‘Borehole Project’ came to fruition following an incredible fundraising effort by the club which raised £80,000, with the help of the Football Foundation and local council.

At no cost to the environment, the borehole irrigation system pumps water out onto the pitches via a very deep hole drilled into the ground and has allowed the club to accommodate the increasing demand in the local area for safe playing spaces.

The club now host three times as many matches per day as they were prior to the implementation of the project, helping even more people stay active, all while protecting our planet.

Lead coach, Lee Murphy said: “It’s been a really long initiative for us and we’re really pleased it’s been recognised nationally. Thank you to the Sport and Recreation Alliance and Active IQ for promoting grassroots sport. It’s really good that you’re recognising people like us who are trying to make a difference in our communities.”

Youth Development Award- Freestyle Urban Soccer CIC

Since 2010, Freestyle Urban Soccer have delivered an average of 400 evening, weekend and holiday street soccer sessions every year, reaching more than 80,000 community members aged from just two years old to 75 years old.

Their free drop in sessions use Multi Use Games Areas and portable inflatable arenas to ensure that they can offer a range of sporting doorstep activities to community members at all levels and standards.

Accessibility has always been at the heart of what they do and during the coronavirus pandemic, they have continued to support people in Chorley by leaving free footballs in local parks so that families and young people passing through can enjoy a kick about – there’s just one rule, use it and leave it!

CEO and Founder, Paul Maloney gave an emotional speech as he collected the award on behalf of the club.

“Absolutely unbelievable. It’s an honour for us to be in the categories and so to be announced as the winners is astounding. I thank you on behalf of the young people who take part in our activities and the staff that go out there and our funders. I can’t believe it! I’m just so thankful for just getting to the finals.”

Mental Health and Wellbeing Award- Exim Dance Company

Prior to Covid-19, Exim Dance Company were delivering 27 weekly dance wellbeing sessions across community, professional and educational settings to more than 500 ‘at risk’ young people per week. This fantastic work continued throughout the pandemic, with the charity delivering over 210 live and pre-recorded sessions to almost 460,000 screens.

Following their dance and wellbeing support programmes, 74.6% of participants have noted improved confidence, 83.3% have improved physical health, 86.1% have improved emotional well-being and 60.3% have increased aspirations.

Upon receiving the award, Exim said, “Thank you so, so much to the incredible team and funders who have allowed us to continue throughout the pandemic and a massive congratulations to all the other wonderful organisations and finalists as well.”

Exim ()