The inaugural Sports Inspire Awards ceremony took place on Tuesday 15 March at the Crowne Plaza, Belfast, bringing the leading sporting bodies from across the province to recognise and celebrate the positive impact of volunteering.
The event was part of the Department for Communities programme, A Home for Lifelong Volunteering, run in conjunction with Ulster GAA, Ulster Rugby and the Irish FA.
Compered by the BBC’s Thomas Niblock, an audience of 200 people paid tribute to young volunteers, all aged between 16 and 24, from each of the three sports who were commended for 50, 100 and 200 hours of volunteering to their clubs.
Keynote speakers included Irish FA board member, Cheryl Lamont CBE, Diarmaid Marsden (Ulster GAA) and Eliza Downey (Ulster Rugby), who reflected on their own volunteering stories and the valuable contribution it has made to their own lives, followed by a panel session involving Stevie Watson (Irish FA), Aimee Hughes (Ulster GAA) and Emily Millar (Ulster Rugby).
Congratulating the young people involved in the Sports Inspire Awards Programme, Ulster GAA President Ciaran McLaughlin said:
“It is great to see so many young people playing a full and active role within their sports club. This Programme highlights the contribution young people can make to sport by not only playing our games but by participating through volunteering.
“I warmly congratulate all the young people who have achieved 50 hours, 100 hours or 200 hours volunteering and I have no doubt that their experience volunteering in sport will contribute to their own personal development in terms of preparing them for university and job applications.
“Our clubs also greatly benefit from having young volunteers enthusiastic to help and learn and to bring their own skills and knowledge to our clubs.”
Irish FA President, Conrad Kirkwood, said: “As a volunteer myself, I know that this work can bring so many positive benefits to people’s lives. This event crystallised all that is good about volunteering and will no doubt encourage those in attendance to follow in the footsteps of the incredible young people we were there to support. On a personal note, Stevie Watson was a real highlight for me. He spoke so well and is a credit to the Irish FA.”
Ulster Rugby Senior Vice President Philip Gregg said: “We are proud to work with our partners in the IFA and Ulster GAA to promote volunteering in sport and to provide the necessary support to our clubs and volunteers to help build capacity. Through the Sport in the Community Project, the three governing bodies of sport continue to highlight the importance of sports volunteering, both to the sports clubs benefit and also the volunteer’s own self development.
“Through volunteering in sport, people are positively contributing to their local community making it a better place for all. Our Sports Inspire Awards Programme, is about raising the efforts of young volunteers and showcasing how they too can make a positive contribution, not only to sport, but to society.”
Anyone interested in getting involved in the Sports Inspire Awards Programme or to hear more, contact Sharon Haughey-Grimley at Sharon.firstname.lastname@example.org