An unsung hero of Suffolk's grassroots football community has been honoured by a national award in recognition of his achievements in promoting and developing wheelchair football in the area.
Simon O'Brien-Ellington said he accepted the Barclays Community Sports Award on behalf of the Ipswich Charioteers Wheelchair FC, the club he founded with his wife Catherine in 2007.
The Charioteers, whose website is powered by Club Website, are the only wheelchair football club in Suffolk. They now boast 19 members and five qualified FA coaches, including Simon, who meet fortnightly to play.
A full-time carer for his wife, Simon is also the Charioteers' secretary, website administrator and first aider. This dedication to the club earned him the Suffolk FA's Volunteer of the Year Award earlier this season, but he was quick to deflect praise away from himself.
“It’s nice to get the recognition for the club," he told Club Website. "If it wasn’t for the club I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, so I accepted both awards on behalf of the club.
“We’ve been a charity for just over a year now and we’re going from strength to strength. Everybody likes what we’re doing.
"Our motto is ‘family and fun’. We concentrate on that rather than league games and getting competitive. We want to make sure that it's fun. Enjoyment is, for me, more important than trophies.”
The Barclays Community Sports Award - which we featured here on Club Website in October - recognises the outstanding contribution to grassroots sports by individuals and groups across the UK who use sport to benefit their community.
Delivered in partnership between Barclays Spaces for Sports, the Premier League’s Creating Chances programme and the Football Foundation, the award provides each monthly winner with £1,000 to spend on their club or organisation.
"It will buy a couple of bumpers and will leave a little bit to do some more advertising as well.”
Gareth Southgate, who is heading up the judging panel for the award, said: “The quick growth of the club and the commitment of the players is testament to the outstanding contribution from Simon, and of course his wife Claire, in getting this fantastic team up and running.”
In the club's early days, Simon secured partnerships with disability charity Optua and the local Novotel which helped give the club the start they needed.
Novotel Ipswich continue to support the Charioteers and the hotel's manager, Christophe Ughetto, sung the praises of Simon as he received the award.
“Simon has never stopped working to keep the club alive and attract new members," said Ughetto. "Not only did he need to raise awareness, but he also needed funding, training facilities and equipment.
"His tenacity, determination and passion for the club have always been second to none even when it became very difficult to secure training facilities.”
Simon, for his part, hopes the extra funding and publicity received from the award can help the club continue to grow.
“Our plans are just to get as big as we can," he said. "Next year, we’re looking at going into Lowestoft, maybe even Peterborough and Cambridge. Wherever we can find a place to put wheelchair football, we will.”
All of us here at Club Website would like to wish Simon and everyone at the club our congratulations for an award that is thoroughly deserved.
To find out more about Ipswich Charioteers, visit their club website at www.icwfc.co.uk.
Nominate your unsung hero!
Do you know someone who has recently used the positive power of sport to make a real and lasting difference in their community?
If so, then why not nominate them for the Barclays Community Sports Award?
To find out more visit www.barclayscommunitysportsaward.com.