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Page last updated at 20:26 GMT, Sunday, 9 December 2007

Unsung sporting heroes

Margaret Simons, the founder of Bardwell Football Club in Bicester, Oxfordshire, was picked from 15 regional winners as the BBC Sport Unsung Hero at the Sports Personality of the Year show.

"I'm honoured to accept the award and I think I might like the England coach's job," she joked.

Volunteers from all over the United Kingdom were recognised for their work in local communities - all attended the show at the NEC in Birmingham on Sunday.

Regional winners, who are each eligible for a bursary of up to 2,500 courtesy of Robinsons, came from a total of nine different sports.

Margaret Simons
SOUTH / OVERALL WINNER
Margaret Simons, 85
Bardwell Football Club

Founded club in 1964 - bought the kits, balls, medical kits and refreshments from her own money. Was chair, secretary, treasurer, manager and coach to the 20 children in her first year.

Estimated nearly 3,000 children between ages of seven and 16 have represented the club, which now has teams in four different leagues.

What the judges said: "Impressed by her long-standing commitment. Someone who founded the club and has contributed at all levels (except as a player) - even at the age of 85 continues to give several hours of support each week."

Tony White
SOUTH WEST
Tony White, 67
Exeter Harriers Athletics Club

For 25 years has coached athletics at least twice a week.

Has helped several athletes on the road to national success - although ability has never been a consideration when accepting youngsters. Despite losing 95% of his eyesight, he still coaches with the help of others.

He was nominated by athlete Jo Pavey.

What the judges said: "Tony is inspiring - His level of commitment over such a length of time is very impressive. The testimonies of his nominator and other people who know and work with him are very impressive."

Keith Everitt
NORTH EAST
Keith Everitt, 56
St Francis 2000 Football Club Club

Started coaching in 1996, and became involved in running the club four years later when it was threatened with closure.

Started with three teams, now there are 21. Keith has been secretary since 2000 and is currently manager/coach of four of the teams.

During the season, he takes training four nights a week, and coaches on Saturday and Sunday.

What the judges said: "Has increased participation in sport, encourages others to do the same, cuts the grass and marks out the pitches, washes the strips, raises funds and deals with administration."

Kevin Conway
YORKSHIRE
Kevin Conway, 45
Hemsworth Miners Community FC

Hemsworth beat hundreds of others to be named England's top community club in 2003.

From two teams at the start of 2000, the club now boasts nine boys' and six girls' teams, with a policy of never turning a child away - whatever their ability.

All the coaches are qualified, and there are plans for a new artificial pitch.

What the judges said: "Kevin has made a huge impact on what was once a crime-ridden area that now has little problems these days because 200 children and teenagers are involved in the club and have a purpose in life."

Jules Cook
WEST
Jules Cook, 39
Easton Girls Football Club

Set the club up in 1999 to draw on a diverse mix of cultures and races within the local community.

Now in its ninth season, she operates as head coach, administrator, fundraiser and press officer.

What the judges said: "She provides much more than just football coaching for an area of Bristol where sporting opportunities for young girls are limited. It is clear she is a much loved and charismatic figure."

June Kelly
NORTH WEST
June Kelly, 37
Abraham Moss Warriors Junior Football Club

Has built up the club, the only one in the traditionally deprived Cheetham Hill area of Manchester, over the last six years.

June gives up four nights a week and her weekends to help more than 100 children who attend regularly. Fourteen of them have gone on to professional academies.

What the judges said: "Infectious enthusiasm, boundless energy and demonstrable courage. She has put her heart and soul into running the club and devotes enormous amounts of time encouraging teamwork, racial harmony and self esteem."

Nina Walker
EAST MIDLANDS
Nina Walker, 63
Shepshed Disabled Swimming Group

Has helped disabled children and adults in Leicestershire for more than 25 years.

Club meets every Saturday morning for two hours, with about 40 swimmers attending each session.

What the judges said: "Outstanding - amazing hard work and commitment."

John Palmer
LONDON
John Palmer, 65
Lewisham District Cricket Club

Club's youth section boasts more than 80 young cricketers.

He also visits local schools to offer coaching and support there as well.

What the judges said: "John stood out for providing a sport that would otherwise not exist in Lewisham. This gives parents and children a choice even during the summer months. He is clearly a loved member of the community and would be sorely missed."

Billy Beck
SOUTH EAST
Billy Beck, 45
Brompton Boxing Club

Billy has spent 27 years helping hundreds of boys in Medway.

The club is open four nights a week and Sunday mornings. Two other qualified volunteer coaches train over 60 boys, with the youngest age just six.

Some have learning difficulties, behavioural problems or other issues, but no-one is turned away.

What the judges said: "He could do no more to help these children, the wider families and communities. They have grown in confidence and self esteem."

Brian Buck
MIDLANDS
Brian Buck, 67
Sandwell Amateur Cycle Speedway Club

Played major role in club for 54 years, and spends at least two days a week helping out in a voluntary capacity.

Joined himself as a rider in 1953, was secretary at the age of 13 , and still holds the post today. He helped build a new track and facilities in 1969. Current membership ranges from ages seven to 50.

What the judges said: "It's been a real achievement - one which consisted of sheer dedication and commitment."

Andrew Grey
WALES
Andrew Grey, 58
Milford Haven Gymnastics Club

Founded the club, which now has about 150 members, 27 years ago.

Runs on four evenings a week for at least 3 hours a session - weekends are taken up with competition and training.

What the judges said: "Impressed by the amount of work Andrew has done, often off his own bat, for a club off the beaten track, and the effect it has had on the local community."

Paul Webb
EAST
Paul Webb, 31
Hockwell Ring and Marsh Farm ABC

Exceptional role model - particularly to ethnic minority groups.

Dedicated life to providing affordable sporting activities for young people living in tough areas of Luton. Now has three boxing clubs. Also organises football, other events and gala fundraising evenings.

What the judges said: "A stand-out nominee in an impressive list of individuals who voluntarily give their time to community sport. Paul epitomises the spirit of this award - with a passion, commitment and dedication that has had a positive impact on the lives of under-privileged children."

Jim Lay
SCOTLAND
Jim Lay, 50
St Maurice's Basketball Club

Jim, a school teacher in Oban, makes a 200-mile round trip twice a week to take basketball coaching sessions in Cumbernauld.

Club is part of the Scottish National League at U-16 level, even though the girls are only aged between 11 and 14. Four are in the young Scottish squad.

What the judges said: "Although the community activity has been going for a relatively short time, there has been an impact on the community through the personal commitment of Jim and the undoubted success across a range of ages."

Denise Woollard
E YORKSHIRE/LINCOLNSHIRE
Denise Woollard, 57
Foresight Ten Pin Bowling

A blind ten pin bowler from Grimsby, she started and organises a weekly club which now attracts more than 40 disabled people.

She has eight teams taking part in the winter and summer competitions of Blind National Ten Pin Bowling Leagues. Has found additional volunteers to help with growing numbers.

What the judges said: "Highly impressed by the citations of the people she helps. Panel were moved by their testimonies."

Michael McGreevy
NORTHERN IRELAND
Michael McGreevy, 57
Dromore Athletics Club

The postman has delivered sporting success for more than 28 years with the club, which welcomes members two nights a week.

It has provided a focal point for both sides of the local community to come together. Has fielded competitors at all of Northern Ireland's major running events for last 20 years.

What the judges said: "If Michael wasn't running the club, it's probable it would not survive."



see also
Bursaries for Unsung Heroes
28 Aug 07 |  Sports Personality
Spotlight on unsung heroes
14 May 07 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality voting details
28 Nov 07 |  Sports Personality
Ten stars compete for BBC award
06 Dec 07 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality contenders
06 Dec 07 |  Sports Personality


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