Sports volunteers recognised for work during pandemic

The efforts and hard work of grassroots sporting heroes who have gone above and beyond to support their communities throughout the pandemic are being recognised by a new campaign.

Maesteg Canoe Club, which was recently awarded a grant from the National Lottery, has been highlighted by its ‘Dedicated To…’ campaign, which aims to give thanks to clubs, coaches and volunteers for their commitment and kindness.

The canoe club welcomes children and adults and has won a number of accolades including 2018 Canoe Wales Club of the Year.

Two years ago, it became the first water-based club in Wales to secure Disability Sport Wales’ Insport gold status – the highest standard a club can achieve in terms of creating and developing inclusivity.

Like all sports clubs, it was forced to cancel sessions from 23 March as the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was announced. Keen to remind juniors the club was still there, thought packages were sent out.

Club Chair Emily Evans, who is also an NHS Wales Ward Clerk, said: “We wanted them to know that we were missing them and thinking of them so we sent them a little gift of rainbow and emoji stickers, a glow stick and a balloon just as a little treat. We also checked in on each other to make sure everyone was OK.”

Once the swimming pool could reopen, the club met with Bridgend County Borough Council’s leisure partners Halo to work out a new way of doing things.

The club lost revenue in lockdown but National Lottery funding from the Sport Wales Be Active Wales Fund has helped the club to restart.

Emily added: “We don’t just provide canoeing activity; it is a second home for our members. We are inclusive and we have members who are autistic. Their confidence has improved so much – one parent told us how much the club had changed the lives of the whole family.

“We welcome members of all abilities, young and old and we see these strong friendships unfolding which is lovely to see. We have also had amputees at the club and someone who was visually impaired. Everyone is welcome!”

Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future generations Dhanisha Patel said: “Well done to Maesteg Canoe Club for looking out for its members during lockdown and for helping them to keep going, mentally and physically.

“I’m pleased to hear the club has received funding to help it continue to benefit the community during these difficult times.”

Image credit: Canoe Wales