Barclays Community Sports Award Winner
The winner of the Barclays Community Sports Award for September was John Gurd, Chairman of Manchester mencap, for his work developing a partnership with the Manchester United Foundation that has massively improved sports participation and health awareness for people with learning difficulties in the city.
Manchester mencap represents the rights and interests of people with learning disabilities and works with over 300 families in Greater Manchester, providing free advice, facilities and activities to all members.
John Gurd began volunteering for Manchester mencap in 2006. Backed by 17 years worth of experience in working with those with learning disabilities, John consulted members on the gaps they felt existed within the organisation and addressed them. Members overwhelmingly wanted more sporting activities that were professional, well organised and competitive. John saw this opportunity and created a partnership between Manchester mencap and the Manchester United Foundation, setting up weekly football sessions that were run by professional coaches.
The football sessions have grown from having just six participants to 35 players, and John plans to expand to a second weekly session. As well as training, the participants receive health checks as part of the scheme, improving their knowledge of health and well-being. Manchester mencap also organises weekly sessions in yoga, cookery and drama, providing members with a packed schedule through which they can socialise and develop key skills. The organisation also provides a place for parents and carers of those with learning disabilities to take a break and share their experiences.
John Gurd commented: "I'm over the moon to be awarded the Barclays Community Sports Award by Barclays Spaces for Sports, the Football Foundation and Premier League Creating Chances. The fact our work has been recognised inspires us to keep going, and gives us the incentive to expand. We couldn’t exist or succeed without our fantastic and enthusiastic members, so thank you to them.”
Gareth Southgate, a judge on the Barclays Community Sports Award panel, said, “It’s fantastic to see organisations like Manchester mencap reaching out and providing sport and other activities for members of society who might have previously been excluded. The sheer volume of members is testament to the terrific work John does in the community. I’m delighted he’s been recognised by Barclays Spaces for Sports, the Football Foundation and Premier League Creating Chances this month.”