Young Volunteer Award Nominees

Toni Paxford and Paige Patching – both aged 19
Paige’s Project is an organisation run entirely by young people, for young people with invisible illnesses. It covers areas of education, drop-ins, social days out, buddy systems and signposting.

The group was set up when Toni and Paige, its founders, met in hospital.  Both had invisible illnesses and started chatting. This led to the realisation that there was little for young people aged 11-25 specifically. As time went on, the two founders planned the project and set up Paige’s Project that has been going about a year and a half, and continues to touch the lives of young people and their families daily. Whether it is giving a young person a safe space or helping teach a young person to budget, nothing is too much.

Ella Craven – aged 14
Ella is 14 years old and volunteers to assist the dance teacher at a Special Educational Needs (SEN) dance class. Around 10 months ago Ella asked the teacher if she would like any help with her class, as she was very keen to assist. The teacher who runs the class says that Ella is an absolute pleasure to work with and she has a very calming effect on the children. Since Ella started assisting, the teacher has been able to provide much more one-to-one time, which is imperative for a class of this nature. The teacher says that all the children adore Ella and she has developed a real bond with several of them. The children in this class performed in their annual dance show at Wakefield Theatre last year, something that the teacher says would have been a huge challenge without Ella’s help. The children got so much out of this opportunity, with one boy asking to go back on stage straightaway! The dance school and the students in the class have benefitted so much from Ella giving up her free time, and from her kindness and patience.

Ella herself has gained many additional skills, which will assist her in the future. She has learned more about working with children, particularly those with additional needs. She has also learned a great deal about communicating effectively and handling difficult situations. Ella does all this with a huge smile on her face, and truly is an inspiration to her peers and the younger students who look up to her. The dance class are very lucky to have her and are delighted to be able to nominate her for this award.

Sophie Louise Dales – aged 22
Sophie has always had a passion for health, wellbeing and fitness, so over the past five years she has set up her own fitness and wellbeing sessions, which she does on a voluntary basis. The sessions started with two people in a back garden, but with her determination and ambition to help people physically and mentally, the group now includes 15 members, ranging from 18-50 years old, both men and women.

The sessions are all planned and delivered by Sophie, with every individual’s needs in her mind. The needs of the group vary and she works alongside some individual’s other healthcare providers (physiotherapists, chiropractor) to ensure that each individual achieves the best that they can from the sessions. Sophie also plans sessions that focus on the wider picture of health and wellbeing, including nutrition and mental health.  She has an amazing rapport with each member of the group, and will go above and beyond to make sure that they keep a positive outlook on their life. She has helped people overcome physical and mental barriers to health and exercise.  Some people have told her that she has changed their life!

Sophie also arranges charity events with the group and they have all raised money for the following charities: Dogs for the Blind, Dogs for Veterans, Children in Need, mental health charities and Cancer Research.  This has been done through sports activities and fundraising events. No challenge is too big for this woman!

It is also important to mention that Sophie receives no payment from the group members and does these sessions a few times a week alongside a 20 hour per week part-time job and studying the following qualifications at university: a degree in Sports Science, a Level 3 sports massage qualification and Level 2 gym instructor qualification.  Sophie is always keen to put the theory learnt at university into the sessions, thus giving her a wider, more developed understanding of health, nutrition and exercise.

This volunteering may seem small to the outside eye, but the difference that she has made on these people is life changing. She is helping people overcome long-term barriers that they have faced with their mental and physical health. Sophie is not just a 22 year old with a passion for health and exercise, she is a determined, remarkable and enthusiastic woman, who wants to make a difference and make people better versions of themselves. We need more people like Sophie in this world.