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2020 Sport and Physical Activity Heroes

The Bedford Sports Awards, which were originally initiated by Sport Bedford and are supported by a range of local companies, would be celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year celebrating the sporting achievements or clubs, teams and individuals based in or affiliated to clubs situated in Bedford Borough.

Unfortunately due to the current circumstances and the increasing risk of COVID-19 we have decided to postpone this year’s award ceremony to December 2021 (and include two years of recognition).

However, we are still very proud of all the achievements this year and everyone who has gone over and above to  keep people active, achieve their goals and continue to inspire.

Message from the Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson

Here are some of Bedford Borough’s 2020 Sport and Physical Activity Heroes

These recognition paragraphs were taken directly from the recognition forms submitted by club members and the public, we have not been able to check all the information and content for accuracy. Please let us know if you feel there are any errors by emailing sport@bedford.gov.uk

Iva Barr

Iva Barr sadly passed away on 17 November 2020 at the grand age of 93. Iva was a local well known veteran athlete, a prolific marathon runner and charity fundraiser. Iva took up running at the age of 55 and in 1986 joined the Bedford Harriers, since then she has run more than 80 marathons, her last entry being the 2016 London Marathon for the 19th time and the oldest female competitor at 88 years. In 2012 she carried the Olympic torch for her work in the local community. Iva was also awarded the Whizz-Kidz Inspirational Fundraiser Award for efforts over the years along with The Point of Light Award from (at the time) Prime Minister David Cameron for her incredible charity work and in 2019 met Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace Garden Party celebrating Victory in Europe Day.

Bedford Hockey Club COVID Team

The Bedford Hockey Club ‘COVID Team’ made up of Rob Oakley, James Oakley, Steve Hawkins, Matt Riley, Brendan McNulty, Dave Parratt and Mandy Brookes have all given up their own time and worked exceptionally hard to ensure that hockey could continue to be played at Bedford Hockey Club in a COVID-19 secure and safe way. They liaised with England Hockey to ensure all the regulations are met, and quickly made all necessary adaptations to the Club House, and club procedures. The team also implemented a check-in contact tracing app to allow player to resume for all ages throughout the Club from the Juniors right the way through to the Vets and walking hockey groups. The members are very grateful for their dedication to the club during this pandemic which has made such a difference to the players who have been able to keep active during this difficult time.

Mike Carter

Mike has been an outstanding member of Viking Kayak Club for over 40 years, this year he has decided to take a back seat but will still be involved at the club. During his time he has paddled & raced for the club and more recently he has been known for his efforts off the water.

He has been on the committee for many years and has been involved in every role. For many years he served on the GB Slalom committee; officiating at the 1981 slalom world championships in North Wales and at a national level. Mike is the bib officer for National Slalom competitions for veterans, he is at the club every week and at every event the club runs locally.

Mike has strong links with Bamberg (our twin town) and has helped run many trips to and from there. He is also a regular attendee to the Bedford River Users group.

Quite simply - without Mike's efforts - Viking would not be what it is today. They would like to thank Mike for all of his effort over the years, and hope to see him at the club when we can fully reopen.

Mr Tarsem Chaggar

Bedford Hockey Club and Hockey in England very sadly lost Tarsem Chaggar, one of our very own sporting heroes and one of the sports most dedicated volunteers September following a short battle with cancer. Right up to the first lockdown in March, Tarsem had served the sport of hockey for over 40 years with service both locally and nationally as a much respected Umpire and Match Day Official.

Tarsem arrived from Kenya in the early 70s, joining Bedford Hockey Club as a player in 1973 and indeed became one of our longest serving active club members. He started umpiring in the early 80s in his early 30s rapidly became recognised as a top class umpire reaching the top Level 3 standard and indeed umpired several unofficial international matches. Tarsem was one of the first umpires to officiate when National League Hockey was launched in 1988 and he remained a national league umpire for an amazing 20 years. Latterly he continued as an active umpire in the East and also on the Masters scene umpiring at the European Masters Hockey Championships in Glasgow in 2017 and Antwerp in 2019 with the LX Club. Indeed, he was due to travel to Tokyo this month to umpire in the World Grand Masters Championship. He combined whistle blowing with volunteering as a match day official for the last four seasons at National League matches.

At a moment's notice, he was very happy to travel anywhere in the country and occasionally abroad providing nearly 40 years of service for hockey. That is true dedication. Our sympathies are especially with all his family but he will also be a very sad loss to our sport. He will be truly missed by us all not only in Bedford but by many in the wider hockey family throughout England and abroad.

Left to right: Iva Barr, Mike Carter, Tarsem ChaggerLeft to right: Iva Barr, Mike Carter, Tarsem Chagger

Sharon Chesham

Sharon is one of the “This Girl Can” Parkrun Ambassadors for Bedfordshire. Sharon’s role came to an abrupt end when the parkruns were cancelled. However, she was determined that COVID wasn’t going to stop her mission to inspire ladies to be physically active so she put a post on the community page asking if any ladies wanted any help to do “Couch to 5 km”(C25K). Five ladies said they would love to do C25K and so Sharon who has no coaching qualifications worked out a plan and safe routes and ran with them 3 times a week for 10 weeks. She also motivated them throughout the week with group chats and inspiring Facebook posts to keep going. All five ladies completed C25K running non-stop for 40 mins just before the 2nd lockdown. Sharon still continues to inspire them to keep going and runs with them individually now so that they keep their fitness levels up. Sharon is very passionate about the benefits of exercise for mental health but is also shy and unassuming, so would never shout from the rooftops about her achievements. It would be fantastic to see her recognised.

Commando Group Fitness

Commando Group Fitness is run by Jamie Goss, Jamie is an ex-marine that lives and breathes his bootcamp business. He didn't just move his training online he increased the number of sessions from 10 to 22 sessions a week, at no additional cost, so everyone could train at all different times to accommodate the lockdown lifestyle challenge of working from home and home-schooling. This has really helped people to get through lockdown healthily (physically and mentally). Jamie also does a vast amount for the local community, he has recently provided safety by illuminating Russel Park some evenings to allow general public, who are not in his group, to walk around the park. Jamie has shown so much commitment and dedication to keeping people fit and healthy the members of the Commando Group Fitness wanted to say a massive thank you and give recognition for all his good deeds.

Julie Crawford

Julie was quick to put her Pilates online in March, adding meditation sessions for existing clients to help with the first lockdown. She had to rearrange the annual Pilates retreat in June - switching from a trip abroad to a "local retreat" as a mixture of online classes and socially distanced outdoor classes. Not only has Julie continued to run all her classes with excellent humour and professionalism, but she's taken the time to check in on clients, particularly those who live alone, or have emotional issues that they're dealing with, outside of classes.

Left to right: Sharon Chesham, Commando Group Fitness, Julie CrawfordLeft to right: Sharon Chesham, Commando Group Fitness, Julie Crawford

Phil Deaves

Phil took over all the hard work for Stevenage Striders when their chair resigned. He dealt with all the problems of 2020 including continue to make sure training continued while adhering to the continually changing rules and regulations. He took on role as chair whilst arranging training sessions, leading groups and heading committee meetings. He did this with compassion and care. The Club and participants (some of which are based in Bedford Borough) would like to say a massive thank you for all your time and dedication you have shown them.

Stuart Duncan

Stuart single handily started a sports club for mainly toddlers which he ran at the Bunyan Centre and Bedford Athletics Stadium. It was a beautiful introduction to many sons and daughters to the world of keep fit, exercise and sport. Stuart would create a different programme each week often with new features such as tennis but always with classics such as the traffic light game and ‘Cross the River’. Participants really enjoyed the sessions and miss them so much. They clearly weren’t the only ones as the sessions would be packed proving their popularity. A participant said, “We were there from the first one and even my mum has taken my daughter on some occasions and they’ve really enjoyed themselves. I hope Stuart is recognised for what he did (and hopefully continues to do) to get kids involved and interested in physical activity at such a young age and with such success. His attitude when faced with crying/stroppy toddlers when they weren’t in the mood deserves recognition by itself.”

Edusports

Edusports is focused on providing opportunities for people to participate in outdoor adventure, water sports and education regardless of their background or personal circumstances. They have an emphasis on inspiring education through sport with young people, but also providing exciting and challenging opportunities for adults and family groups.

Projects have included school residential and activity programmes, holiday programmes, evening adventure clubs, outdoor PE sessions and private parties. Over lockdown this hasn’t changed as small groups were able to meet or the activities went online to ensure the young people Edusports are invested in have continued to be supported in this difficult time.

Over recent months there has been significant emphasis on young people’s mental health and resilience, but this has always been included in Edusports programmes where participants can also develop life skills and take on challenges. Where possible exciting activities have continued including kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, orienteering, hikes, pioneering, fire lighting and backwoods cooking. But the team have also come together to develop new remotely delivered challenges including scavenger hunts, virtual stargazing and guiding the instructors around Bedford town centre using maps and live camera feeds.

Falcon S.A. Gymnastics Club

The coaches at Falcon S.A. Gymnastics Club have been amazing over the two lockdown periods when all grassroots sports had to stop.

From week one, they had multiple zoom classes running 5 days per week for conditioning, flexibility and dance. The coaches were all so enthusiastic and bubbly online. When it was possible to train outdoors again, the coaches ran brilliantly organised classes on the school field, whilst maintaining social distancing.

Once back inside, the communication to all parents and the attention to detail to ensure the club was COVID-19 secure was second to none.

The club’s member’s page has been continuously updated with training videos created by the coaches for all Falcon gymnasts, from action songs for the Pre-school gymnasts, warm up stretches and basic skills for the recreational classes, right through to the elite squads.

The participants and parents would like to say thank you for all your hard work and patience.

Simon Feaver

Simon has been a fantastic asset to the coaching team at Riverside Tennis Club. Whilst running his own successful business, he has been able to regularly commit significant hours a week to the coaching programme; largely working with Mini Red, Mini Orange, Davis Cup Legacy, Cardio Tennis, Disability sessions and Adult Coaching programme. He has inspired a raft of new players to take up the game through his enthusiasm and excellent coaching. This includes all ages from the youngest mini-players to our oldest Adult Members. He has a great rapport with all Members and really benefits their Coaching Programme at Riverside.

Simon was actively involved in their online lockdown streaming programme during the first few months of the pandemic. He led online "Cardio Workout and Strength" sessions via Facebook LIVE with great enthusiasm, setting challenges and encouraging everyone to get involved. He encouraged everyone to get involved. He was readily available to return to tennis at the earliest opportunity post lockdown.

Simon is such a big character in the Club and everyone knows him! Whatever he throws himself into, it’s always with 100% energy, drive and determination. Nothing is impossible with Simon.

Simon gets on so well with his colleagues; he is adaptable, listens to feedback and always strives to improve. He feels so passionately about tennis, enjoys working with both children and adults and always wants the best for his players. He is a very caring individual and team player.

He is a great leader and his passion shines through in all his work. Simon is a great example to our younger members within our coaching team. He has adapted well to the COVID-19 restrictions and certainly has helped ensure tennis has bounced back at Riverside Tennis Club.

Left to right: Phil Deaves, Falcon SA Gymnastics Club, Simon FeaverLeft to right: Phil Deaves, Falcon S.A. Gymnastics Club, Simon Feaver

Neil Frankel

Neil responded pro-actively to the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic through his creation of content on social media. Neil motivated and supported the Riverside Tennis Club community, thus creating a positive ripple effect during the difficult first few months of the pandemic. The online programme included 17 sessions a week to keep both junior and adult minds and bodies active from the comfort of their own home. The sessions ranged from Cardio Workouts, Footwork Movement & Patterns, which were streamed LIVE on Riverside Tennis Facebook's page to pre-recorded sessions, such as, a General Knowledge & Tennis Quiz and Morning Meditation. Neil also created powerful content such as #theshowboat challenge, asking members to send in a video clip of their best racket/ball trick so he could make a compilation to post up on our social media pages.

As soon as tennis was permitted again post-lockdown, he quickly introduced a 4 week Summer Programme for the Performance Players, while adhering to the COVID-19 restrictions. Neil also turned around the Autumn Term programme within a short timescale when he was given the go-ahead for the programme to return to the Club. Neil made a safe and quick return to Riverside Tennis Club’s Disability Tennis Programme with 9 sessions running per week whilst working with their local special schools to ensure they could get back in action as soon as was feasible.

Neil has worked at Riverside Tennis Club for 20 years, however, in August 2020, he decided to step down as ‘Director of Coaching’. He continues to manage the Disability Programme, provides group coaching to our Performance and Challenger players, and provides 1-1 lessons at the Club to both Junior and Adult Members. 

From the roots that were already at the club, he grew and expanded the activities to inspire a path of continual improvement at Riverside Tennis Club.

Gainz Gym

Alex and Amber recently took over a local Bedford unit and transformed it into a living breathing Gym. They have built not only an amazing Gym but a community that you are welcomed to feel relaxed, get a great workout with great members and leave feeling such a high and a big smile. During the first lockdown Alex and Amber lent out most of their equipment free of charge to less fortunate people to use at home to get them through the difficult time. During the 2nd lockdown they worked non-stop to get Gyms across the country recognised as an essential sector to keep weight and health under control to relieve the burden on the NHS. Gyms also help people’s mental health which has been a massive factor during lockdowns. A ‘Go Fund Me’ page was also set up with all funds to be donated to mental health charities. All in all these two do so much for other people and their members want them to get some recognition for their relentless hard work and dedication.

Svitlana Gouin

Svitlana has set up a new open Canadian Canoe section at the Viking Kayak Club. Fuelled by her love of canoeing, and buckets of enthusiasm, she has built a great group of people and a really good community. As with everyone this year, she has been limited with what she can arrange. But she has arranged groups on the water when she can and has organised chats and games to be played on a Whatsapp group when we have not been allowed on the water.

Left to right: Neil Frankel, Gainz Gym and Svitlana GouinLeft to right: Neil Frankel, Gainz Gym, Svitlana Gouin

Vince Hart

Vince is a fantastic, friendly and supportive trainer who has always delivered interesting, varied and fun workouts for all of his Elements members, personalising and tailoring them to suit individual needs. Throughout both lockdowns, Vince has continued to offer numerous daily workouts via Zoom, lending his own equipment to members to ensure that the workouts were accessible to everyone. When face-to-face classes reopened, there were never any concerns about his efforts around COVID-19: he was meticulous about cleaning and hygiene measures, to ensure that we felt safe and confident. He has always gone above and beyond for his members, taking time to get to know them and supporting them in many different ways. I know that he has helped many of the Elements members to achieve their personal goals and improve their mental health. He is incredibly dedicated to what he does and constantly strives to develop his own knowledge and is keen to share this and incorporate it into his sessions. Not only does he offer great workouts, he also offers realistic nutritional information and recipes and keeps members motivated through regular emails and social media posts. He is AWESOME!

Vienna Hayers

Vienna is a competitive dancer who trains at Elev8 Studios Dance Academy; now thirteen, she has danced since she was three years old and last year she was invited to compete at the All England Dance Finals in the Classical Ballet section. The first few months of 2020 saw Vienna bag multiple medals in all genres, at Luton & Milton Keynes Festival of Dance - she was on a roll! During the first lockdown of 2020, Vienna continued to train online via zoom classes and worked extremely hard. However, tragedy struck when a freak accident on a trampoline resulted in her spending 14 weeks in hospital (10 at Great Ormond Street), where she unfortunately had the lower part of her right arm removed. Throughout this trauma Vienna has been a shining beacon of light, her smile contagious and her determination to succeed and inspire others never wavering. Within weeks of her return home she was in the studio having private dance lessons and working tirelessly with her physiotherapist to build back strength. It took only a few weeks until she was ready to train with her peers and what she already achieved in quite literally unbelievable. Although we are back in lockdown, Vienna continues to train via zoom and we cannot wait to see her back on the stage and competing as soon as events begin to return - with her courage, strength & determination we have no doubt she will be ready to take the world by storm! We feel it is so important to recognise these achievements during these uncertain times, as she truly shows strength of character all athletes can aspire to.

Jamie Hooley

Jamie has helped many of his client's get through this tough year with his positive attitude to training and a willingness to help others achieve their goals, even if that is simply getting out for a friendly chat and training session. He trains all ages and all levels of fitness and is a fantastic personal trainer who deserves a shout out for keeping in touch with his members to ensure their wellbeing was being looked after during the lockdown restrictions. They have been at the park at ridiculously early hours of the morning to get training in before work. Jamie has been a star and rain or shine he is always there and always with a smile on his face, his participants think he definitely deserves this recognition.

Lauren Aimee Yoga and Dance

Lauren's yoga classes are inclusive, creative and fun. She has been so responsive to her clients throughout this year, setting up online live and recorded classes as well as providing free YouTube content and live meditation sessions; and running park sessions for the time that was possible. Her participants are so grateful that she has supported them to continue their practice and to maintain their friendships, and she has supported those who didn’t feel confident with using online tools to continue as well. Some of her participants have achieved fitness goals this year that I would not have expected in normal times, let alone during a pandemic and Lauren has been central to this. Big thanks to her!

Left to right: Vince Hart, Vienna Hayers and Lauren Aimee Yoga and DanceLeft to right: Vince Hart, Vienna Hayers, Lauren Aimee Yoga and Dance

Letchworth and Biggleswade Taekwon-Do Club

This recognition form was from a resident of Bedford Borough whose children (14 and 11) attend sessions regularly:

The Letchworth and Biggleswade Taekwon-Do Club run many classes across the county. It started as a hobby for my son, then 6, and later my daughter joined. I was encouraged to attend a ladies self-defence class and then began to train as well. The club is fully inclusive catering for all ages, abilities, fitness and confidence levels. At the start of the first lock-down, the club adapted quickly and almost immediately switched coaching to online. The fee structure was developed to allow those financially affected by the pandemic to continue their training.

Online resources were developed to an exceptional standard to enable students to train at any time of the day - a welcome diversion for those on furlough or home-schooling. The LBTDC kept us all moving, despite the lockdown and even redesigned syllabuses (in consultation with the governing body) to allow for belt-gradings to occur remotely, so students could continue to progress. As the restrictions started to lift, they sourced outdoor training venues allowing training to resume in a COVID-19 secure manner, whilst still streaming lessons for those self-isolating to ensure their ethos of inclusivity continued. As soon as it was possible to meet indoors again, all venues were made safe for students to return. All this preparation and planning paid off during the more recent national lockdown, when training could instantly revert to the online live lesson format. When it was only possible to meet one other person outdoors, they offered 1:1 free lessons to each and every student. The instructors have gone above and beyond to ensure that at least one area of their students’ lives has been able to continue uninterrupted, albeit adapted, during these unprecedented times.

Linzi McDonald

Linzi has been running a wide range of online and outdoor fitness classes since April and has successfully adapted the delivery of her inclusive sessions to meet the ever changing guidelines she is required to operate in. The outdoor classes take place in all weathers and cater for all abilities and a sign of Linzi's professional and enthusiastic delivery is their ever increasing popularity.

Linzi has the expertise, empathy and knowledge to teach in a safe but fun way that makes everyone feel valued and looked after. Her classes have helped people maintain personal contact throughout a difficult year and have been a genuine focal point for maintaining both physical and mental health.

Linzi has been able to continue all her classes with an ever positive and inspiring approach (as well as supporting her own young family) that has provided many people with a consistency of friendship and activity that has been greatly valued by all her clients. As well as planning all the classes and standing in the rain, wind and possibly snow soon... Linzi travels to each session with a 40 minute journey and has never been late!

Linzi treats everyone in a respectful and equal way and has made a huge contribution to the local area and people with her friendly, well organised and fun programmes. Top work Linzi..."another 10 Burpees" !!

MoveFit Pilates

With the first lockdown in March, Anna , from MoveFit Pilates, moved swiftly to an on-line delivery of classes and then a mix of on-line and outdoor / indoor sessions once restrictions eased. Recognising how important is has been to continue to offer sessions to keep people active and healthy, she has worked so hard to respond to the challenges posed by the changes in how we’re able to meet and exercise. Remaining active has been crucial for the physical and mental health of those working from home (often at very unsuitable workstations) and for those self-isolating – Anna has played a large part in delivering this for Bedford’s community with a lot of good humour and bags of motivation. Definitely a Bedford Hero!

Left to right: Letchworth and Biggleswade Taekwon-Do Club, Linzi McDonald, MoveFit PilatesLeft to right: Letchworth and Biggleswade Taekwon-Do Club, Linzi McDonald and MoveFit Pilates

Francesca Jane Mudd

Francesca is a mother of young children she works 4 days a week as a teacher and is also a part time gym class instructor. Since March she has, via Facebook, provided free daily workouts for anyone who wishes to join in. She does so, with humour and expertise, and often multitasks when her children arrive to chat and never misses the beat of the exercise. When she returned to instructing at gyms, she pre-recorded workout sessions to ensure there was always a fresh programme. There was a participant ill in March, Francesca’s virtual sessions helped them regain their fitness and after lock-down eased, helped her stay active without having to return to a public gym. Francesca isn’t a personal trainer wanting to retain, or gain clients, and isn’t gaining financially, she wants to encourage those interested, to keep healthy, fit and motivated.

David Parratt

Like so many true heroes, it's difficult to quantify all that Dave does for Bedford Hockey Club, as so much is carried out quietly behind the scenes. Not satisfied with simply being a player (when times have allowed such a thing), Dave is also a committee member for the Club, with 'face-to-face' meetings having continued through the power of digital media, ensuring the Club's future is guaranteed and all steps have been put in place for hockey to continue whenever permitted. A challenging role at the best of times, as Club Treasurer, Dave is tasked with balancing the books, despite the crippling financial impact the pandemic has had on sport. As if all that weren't enough, he has invested a vast amount of his time and energy doing maintenance work at the Sports & Hockey Centre. Most Club members will be completely oblivious to who it is that has spent almost every day at the Club painting, cleaning and repairing. Dave's input at Bedford Hockey Club has always been massive, during 2020 however, he has been truly inspirational.

Tony Perry

Tony has put so much work into Viking Kayak Club over the years, this year he excelled himself. Tony has been the driving force behind ensuring the club is COVID-19 compliment while keeping people paddling. He has worked tirelessly updating COVID-19 risk assessments as the rules change (weekly is some cases!), dealing with concerns head on and ensuring decisions are communicated efficiently to our members.

Viking Kayak Club honestly believe their members wouldn't have been able to paddle half as much this year if it had not been for Tony's continue efforts. On top of the COVID-19 work, Tony has been working hard getting the club changed from a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) status.  This has been a huge undertaking, again without Tony, this may not have happened.

Left to right: Francesca Jane Mudd, David Parratt, Tony PerryLeft to right: Francesca Jane Mudd, David Parratt, Tony Perry

Sarah Poll

Congratulations to Sarah Poll who completed a 16 hour swim across the English Channel in July with rain, wind and ‘lumpy’ conditions. Sarah, from Turvey, had been practicing and training in the River Great Ouse at Harrold. Congratulations Sarah a great achievement.

Vara Phillips

Vara set up the Family Engagement Initiative which recognises the importance and value of family involvement within Viking Kayak Club. 

It has been seen that over the years that families contribute to nearly every element of the club. By engaging and encouraging them this will retain youth involvement and also harness additional knowledge and skills and so aid the success of the club. The intention is to mobilise, train and sustain a base of active Instructors, Coaches and Leaders who are committed to facilitate and lead family orientated Paddlesport activities and trips, on a rota basis, throughout the paddling season.

Although sessions have been limited this year Vara has been able to run some COVID-19 safe paddles, including a family picnic. Her efforts have meant many paddlers have been able to get out on the water where they may not have done. Really fantastic work.

Riverside Tennis Club

Within one week of the first lockdown in March 2020, the team at Riverside had designed and launched a weekly programme of 17 online classes including quizzes, meditation, HIT training, Cardio Tennis, Ball skills and brain teasers. This was all available free for our members and as a 'Pay What you Want' via their PayPal to anyone tuning in. They used donations to help pay the coaches and gave 20% of this revenue to Beds LTA to help support other clubs in the extended tennis family.

Left to right: Sarah Poll, Vara Phillips, Riverside Tennis ClubLeft to right: Sarah Poll, Vara Phillips, Riverside Tennis Club

Ben Rookwood

Ben is a fantastic coach who has supported and encouraged his participant every single step of the way to becoming a healthy person. He is always kind and supportive, and makes every session fun to be a part of. During the COVID-19 pandemic he has gone above and beyond to keep everyone connected holding daily catch up calls so no-one feels isolated or alone, he has opened these up to the wider community and is always there for anyone regardless of their background to lend an ear. Another initiative he started within the community is the ‘pay it forward fund’. Where he raised money to then give back to the local community to help support them through COVID-19, the left over money was used to support those athletes that could no longer afford membership due to unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19. It is the small gestures he does daily that make the big difference to people’s life and he thoroughly deserves some recognition for all the hard work he does.

Mr Charan Sekhon and Mrs Shital Gandhi

Bedford is one of the most diverse towns in East of England with BAME figures nearly 35%. Out of all the communities in Bedford, BAME elderly are the most effected and still in isolation since COVID-19 started. Due to language barriers for many elderly people they are not able use any other online activities but Charan & Shital came up with great concept of free online Yoga classes. They both are qualified Yoga teachers and have been holding free Yoga classes in Kempston and Bedford for over 10 years by giving their free time to the local communities.

Since the start of online classes in April, over 200 people have been benefited from their amazing selfless service Their main beneficiaries are BAME elderly women who would not attend any other activities. During these session people can ask questions in any of the following languages; Hindi, Punjabi, Gujrati, Urdu, Bengali and of course English. From Oct onwards they managed to link up these sessions with a national yoga charity and now supporting over 50 people on weekly basis who are in isolation or fall in high COVID-19 vulnerable category. We feel this is their exceptional and selfless service and deserves a recognition as not only are they providing local community free service to help them with physical activities, it also helps social interactions and combats loneliness.

Left to right: Ben Rookwood, Mrs Shital Gandhi, Mr Charan SekhonLeft to right: Ben Rookwood, Mrs Shital Gandhi, Mr Charan Sekhon 

Spiral Freerun

Luke is the founder of Spiral Freerun, an independent business that teaches children how to battle their fears and express themselves athletically. Luke started the company when he was 19 and he has grown this company to a point where he is now teaching in schools all over England and teaching kids how to Freerun, as well as his teaching, he has also branded his own merchandise which is now sold globally. Luke has helped many parents and their children to keep their children safe, happy and active, through group classes and one to ones. He has had extremely positive feedback for the work he has done. These children have a safe space to keep active, learn new skills, and keep entertained. His selfless and positive ‘can do’ attitude has gained many happy customers. It is such a refreshing change to see someone put in the effort that he has to keep kids safe and active.

St Hilaire Fitness

During lockdown, Lauren Hilaire did her absolute best to encourage her group of new mums to continue to participate in physical activity. Being a new mum herself she knew and recognised how important it was for new mums to keep fit and most importantly take care of their mental health during lockdown.

She kindly put on physical activity classes over zoom and was always there to chat too, making sure they were still all okay whilst being in lockdown. This recognition is on behalf of all her NCT group, who can’t thank her enough for her support and enthusiasm during what could have been a difficult time for them all. However, she kept them all smiling and very fit, thank you Lauren!

Kevin Stark

Kevin has been doing karate for 38 years and during the first lockdown period created a karate e-book for all karate practitioners to be able to continue to train using the photos and videos. Remote grading exams have also been set up to allow people to continue to achieve and progress with achieving the coloured belt grading exams and give a positive slant to the overall COVID situation. Kevin has also been able to offer private sessions for when the restrictions allowed training outdoors. When able to use a hall with complying with the COVID requirements, Kevin set out floor plans and risk assessments for his clubs and supported other activity groups with their risk assessments and floor plans. Kevin also offered ‘pay as you come’ sessions to ensure that anyone furloughed or worrying about money would not be charged for anything they don’t have access to or to be committed to training every week. Kevin has also created a further e-book for mindfulness, which is to support primary age children to cope with potential mental health issues. This is to be accessible to Primary Schools and looking to be rolled out across the country.

Rob Stean

Rob Stean has instigated a shift in fortune for the Beds LTA Junior County Closed event at Riverside Tennis Club in the last few years. It is the biggest tennis competition in the county across all ages and despite the challenges of COVID-19, Rob successfully organised and ran the tournament again this year. Many County Closed events across the country were cancelled as they were unable to safely operate within the confines of COVID-19 guidelines. Due to Rob’s excellent planning and adaptability, he was able to ensure the Bedfordshire tournament still took place.

In order to comply with Government rules, Rob implemented COVID-19 procedures to ensure the tournament could safely go ahead. He scheduled all age group events with no crossovers to ensure fewer than 30 people were on-site at all times. He ensured social distancing was maintained throughout the tournament and implemented strict guidelines, such as, ensuring players hands were sanitised before and after matches. Racket taps became the norm instead of handshakes at the end of each match. Rob took great pride in liaising and reassuring parents and players, scheduling matches and ensuring the tournament ran smoothly throughout the week.

Riverside Tennis Club and all the attendees would like to say thank you for all your hard work and dedication – without you the event could not have taken place.

Ed Steele

Ed is, without a doubt, integral to Sharnbrook Football Club. He is the invisible ‘face’ of the club. Ed uses social media to promote the club and is the first port of call for enquiries; he has improved and strengthened the communication pathways within the club and completed the documentation to ensure the club continues to meet charter standard; he ensures there is greater liaison between Beds FA and the club.

As part of his work with Beds FA, he ensures the club adheres to regulations and coordinates the administration of team registrations and day-to-day running of the club. He was also an important part in the formation of the new adult reserve team; this ensures that in excess of 20 players can play football regularly – some of whom have been playing for the club since they were eight years old!

Not only does he support the older players, he coordinates those who are just starting on their football journey: the ‘Kickers’. He enables 4-7 year old children to play and train weekly and is the ‘meeter-and-greeter’ for these children. These children are the future of the club.

More recently, Ed took on the unforeseen role of COVID-19 coordinator. He compiled the Risk assessment; kept managers, coaches, parents and players up to date with the ever-changing guidance; created, sourced and displayed the required COVID-19 related materials (e.g. A-board signage and match day information documents to distribute to visiting teams) and sourced PPE. Thanks to Ed’s relentlessness and sheer hard-work we are in a position to resume playing football. Many people are thankful and appreciative of this.

Left to right: Spiral Freerun, Kevin Stark, Rob Stean, Ed SteeleLeft to right: Spiral Freerun, Kevin Stark, Rob Stean, Ed Steele

Amanda at Supply Strength

Amanda has constantly responded to her customer needs in an innovative and sensitive way from the start of national lockdown. She has offered classes at different times, days, online both live and recorded as well as outdoor classes when the weather and restrictions allowed. Her customers are loyal, appreciate all her efforts and feel part of the Supple Strength close knit family community. She supports her participant’s physical health as well as mental well-being in odd times whilst juggling her own family life.

Georgia Testa

Georgia has been instrumental in keeping the goals of Studio281 alive during all of 2020, even in the wake of gyms closing down. She, along with the amazing instructors, kept a full weekly timetable going via the member's only page with live classes streaming daily for them to follow at home. As soon as outside exercise restrictions were lifted, she was the first to begin safely hosting socially distanced classes in the private car park and since reopening fully, her aim to deliver the best experience as possible whilst still keeping stringent hygiene levels and procedures in places honestly has made her members feel so safe to be back in the studio. Alongside all of this, Georgia ran live entertainment via Facebook quizzes, competitions and lots of motivational talks, even cooking online to help people with their nutrition. Georgia even organised for a councillor to assist anyone that needed to talk online and checked in with all her members regularly. A member said “I've never met anyone more dedicated to her role in keeping our physical and mental fitness and motivation going throughout this unprecedented year and she fully deserved to be recognised for her work in the community.”

Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson runs two businesses (Skip Beatz and Exercise Behaviour) aimed at supporting children across Bedfordshire Schools managing their behaviour and helping them plan for the future through having a positive mind set and utilising the resources and support available to them. During lockdown Peter spent this time donating thousands of free skipping ropes to school across Bedfordshire to support less fortunate children and provided free online sessions to mentor them through this difficult time and promote their mental health and wellbeing. Having first-hand knowledge of the subject he understands the importance of supporting young children through this difficult time by making sure they feel valued and supported. Peter always goes above and beyond to ensure young children are taught the value to keeping healthy and how this can influence their lives and the people around them as well as how this can promote their mental health. He also holds 2 Guinness World Records for the most cross overs with one of them achieved during lock down. Peter uses his achievements to motivate and inspired children to follow their dream and always give their best. He is a true inspiration who deserves a recognition for the hard work and effort he puts in ensuring young children are given t opportunities to thrive regardless of their behaviour or background.

Left to right:Left to right: Georgia Testa, Peter Thompson

Jane Warner

Jane has given daily exercise classes from her bedroom via Zoom throughout the COVID crisis. Since the middle of March she has not had a holiday or even missed a single day (weekday). She has made such a huge difference to the physical and mental health of so many people by giving them the incentive to keep physically fit and active, also providing the mental boost of that regular 'appointment' every morning. She keeps them motivated by adding challenges progressively but always encourages them not to overdo anything but to work within their own capabilities. It must be difficult to pitch an activity session for thirty or so people of varying capabilities none of whom she can actually see but she does such a marvellous job of it. Lockdowns would have been so different without her. Paul, Jane's husband, also deserves recognition for looking after the technical side of Zooming whilst Jane is active.

Emanuela Zetić and Ben Turner

Emanuela and Ben, both aged 14, are Ballroom and Latin dancers and winners of the prestigious Blackpool annual competition 2020 in January. They also are role models in their school as maintain high level of grades but still managing to train every day for minimum of 3 to 4 hr. Emanuela lives in Bedford and Ben in Kettering, throughout lockdown they have had many hours practicing over zoom and FaceTime to keep on improving their routines and footwork. They have both inspired their grandparents to maintain a good diet and to stay healthy as well as their peers from School. It would mean a world to be recognised as they are a hardworking team with lots of potential.

Left to right: Jane Warne, Emanuela Zetić and Ben TurnerLeft to right: Jane Warner, Emanuela Zetić and Ben Turner

These recognition paragraphs were taken directly from the recognition forms submitted by club members and the public, we have not been able to check all the information and content for accuracy. Please let us know if you feel there are any errors by emailing  sport@bedford.gov.uk

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