The power of sport at Cambridge United Community Trust gala dinner
Winners of the Cambridge United Sport in the Community awards
Cambridge United Community Trust Gala Dinner, featuring Sport in the Community Awards, Quy Mill Hotel & Spa, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
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Cambridge United Community Trust’s gala dinner showcased the power to inspire at the Quy Mill Hotel & Spa.
On an evening that incorporated the Cambridge United Sport in the Community awards, in association with the Cambridge Independent, 300 people were in attendance to help fundraise and find out more about the Trust’s work.
The U’s are about more than just the first team, but it can be easy to get drawn to the win, lose or draw exploits on a Saturday afternoon or midweek evening.
There is much more being done by United in the community though, and the gala dinner showcased just a handful of the projects being undertaken.
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of the city council, and South Cambridgeshire District Council leader Cllr Bridget Smith were just some of the city’s dignitaries in attendance at an event compered by CUCT chairman and Cambridge United director of football Graham Daniels.
Scholar Sam Squire and Cambridge United Women’s player Ruth Fox talked emotively about the Trust’s work on mental health, and some of the projects that are undertaken in schools.
Liam O’Neil, the Sky Bet League Two player of the year, recorded a video message talking about the huge impact that the Trust’s community work can have.
Steve Leys hailed the disability football sessions hosted by the Trust, explaining how important they are to his son Ronnie, with a video of the youngster scoring a goal and then sharing a fist pump with defender Leon Legge earning huge affection in the room.
The U’s head coach Joe Dunne also spoke passionately about his role at the club, his hopes for the first team and the importance and responsibility of United’s role in the wider community.
Ben Szreter, the Cambridge United Community Trust chief executive, said: “The gala dinner is a special night for Cambridge United Community Trust each year and 2018 was no different.
“To have 300 guests in the room was a brilliant effort from the Cambridge community. The evening allows us to showcase our work as a charity as well as to celebrate the outstanding community sport work of others through the Sport in the Community Awards in association with the Cambridge Independent.
“The winners of those awards were richly deserved and all of them extremely humble individuals and organisations; they are all a huge credit to themselves and our great city.”
Star of the year winner – Louis Rolfe
Louis Rolfe grew up in the shadow of the Abbey Stadium but he shone bright as the star of the year.
It is easy to forget that the para-cyclist is still only 20 given the level of success that he has already enjoyed.
Rolfe already has a bag laden with medals from the world stage, making the breakthrough in 2016 with a gold and bronze at the world championships in Montichiari followed by gold at the Rio Paralympics in the team sprint with Jody Cundy and Jon-Allan Butterworth.
The trio joined forces in Brazil again in March for the Para Cycling Track World Championships, and it was the same outcome as Rolfe helped the British trio to another gold medal in the C1-5 category.
Rolfe, who captivated guests at the gala dinner in conversation on stage with host Graham Daniels, will be hoping to bid for more glory at the UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships in August.
And he was delighted to be named Cambridge United Sport in the Community Awards’ star of the year.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s great to get recognition for para-cycling and para-sport in the community; getting an award from somewhere you have lived opposite for years.
“It’s been a really good evening. As has been referenced, there is a real sense of community, you can feel it and that’s really cool.
“I wasn’t aware of the stuff you don’t see. This evening has really opened my eyes to see there is a lot more that goes on just behind the football pitch.”
Champion of the year winner – David Burkett
Humbled and honoured was how David Burkett described his emotions after winning the champion of the year award.
David started working with a group of girls at a Living Sport/Cambs FA initiative after school in Cottenham in 2016, and they now have 60 girls in attendance; it has led to the creation of two teams, one being an under-13 side.
David has no family links to the side, but is just focused on developing them as footballers, and he also helps to coach and run a boys’ under-15 team, and coaches at the Cottenham Colts FA SSE Wildcats Centre for primary school girls.
“It’s humbling. I’m honoured,” said Burkett. “You start wondering what have I done really.
“I love what I do and if I didn’t do it, it would leave a big hole. I’m just doing what lots of people do really, hundreds and hundreds of people through grassroots sport – not just football.
“There are loads and loads of volunteers out there that do the same thing for kids week in, week out that go unrewarded.
“It’s absolutely fantastic to get acknowledgement but this is for all those people out there; there are so many more people that should be acknowledged for what they do. It’s inspirational stuff, and they are people that truly deserve it.”
It was an extremely special night for U’s fan Burkett.
“It was a fantastic evening,” he said. “I’m a Cambridge United fan, a Cambridge United season ticket holder, and when we got the invite to come here, my daughter said ‘can I come, can I come?’.
“She is a season ticket holder as well, and to see all these people here supporting Cambridge United and the trust, and the wonderful work they do in the community and all the hard work put in, it’s fantastic.
“Cambridge United are part of the community. This evening personifies exactly what Cambridge United are about.”
Coach of the year winner – Mark Vile
A momentous season inspiring the athletics in his charge earned Mark Vile the coach of the year award.
The endurance lead coach at Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club has a successful group of athletes that he gives a lot of his time to in order to progress their training.
He nurtures those in his charge with their long-term goals and potential, inspiring the younger athletes with the success of the older ones he coaches.
The endurance running group, ranging in age from under-13s to adults, and have had a lot of success at cross country and track championships, with three athletes – Jack Gray, Charlie Christensen and Thomas Keen – selected to represent England in an international cross country match in Belgium in February.
“It’s very humbling. I had no idea,” said Vile. “I didn’t know much about the trust before tonight, it’s quite inspiring.
“It’s been our best year so far, and it’s just getting better as it goes on.
“Success breeds success, and you have one or two people that do well and the rest of the kids aspire to be as good as them and that’s what’s fuelling it.
“It’s a very nice surprise. Athletics is not the most glamorous, but this award is a testament to the group.”
Team of the year winner – Cambridge Rubies
Providing access to new opportunities helped earn Cambridge Rubies the team of the year accolade.
In November 2016, Cambridge Rugby Club spotted the need for girls’ rugby sessions in the region, and so mini and junior chairman John Creighton set about organising girls’ training at the club.
The sessions for girls aged 12 to 18 took off, and so Cambridge Rubies was formed, with teams at under-13, under-15 and under-18 age groups.
There are 50 girls in training and they have tasted success in regional tournaments, and plans are in place to start a women’s team at the club.
Cate Dyble became chair of the Cambridge Rubies last year, and on receiving the award, she said: “It’s amazing, it’s so amazing. It’s only been going for such a short amount of time but I think it has made an impact and I’m so pleased that people have noticed because that’s what it’s all about.
“The more people that know about it, the more girls that get in and the more girls who get in the better it gets, basically.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming, I don’t think we were expecting this.
“We just thought it was really nice that somebody thought of us, that was my initial thing – that’s brilliant that someone is thinking about girls rugby.
“John has worked so very hard in starting it, with the organisation. To introduce girls rugby into a club that has been established for 90 years, that’s amazing.”
John added: “I’m humbled, very proud of the whole achievement. The committee at the club have been fully behind us.”
School of the year winner – Castle School
Kevin Martin paid tribute to all the staff at Castle School after they were named school of the year.
The school seeks to make sure sport is available to all, with students having a wide variety of needs, from complex physical, social, sensory and emotional needs to those who just need a little more help and guidance.
Therefore, PE is personalised as different needs are met with students able to access individual programmes to their own needs.
Some students do PE and swimming to a high standard and follow a traditional PE programme with the opportunity to undertake an entry level qualification.
Castle School runs eight sporting clubs and has a wide variety of extra-curricular opportunities through clubs and sporting fixtures, attending up to 12 a year including boccia, tag rugby and football and have links with organisations such as Cambridge Lawn Tennis Club and Northampton Saints.
Martin and fellow PE teacher Connie De Martino collected the award on the school’s behalf.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve been recognised for the hard work we do. It’s the whole school who allow us to win this award,” said Martin, who had particular praise for headteacher Carol McCarthy.
“Being a special needs school, we need quite a lot of staff so our teaching assistants, class teams and senior management play a vital role.
“More in a in a mainstream school, the PE department will be by itself; we rely on everyone to be able to help the kids physically.
“It’s very much a school award than a PE department. We were very surprised.
“Connie has worked in the school for 12 years since it opened, and I think she’d agreed that what makes it worthwhile for us is that we have lots of magic moments.
“As our headteacher would say, every day there is something which will touch you – whether it’s a kid achieving something or a certain character, it’s just fantastic.”