As Volunteers’ Week (1st-7th June) comes to a close, we’ve been shining a light on our huge army of volunteers, and hosting Local Volunteer Awards within our teams across the UK in recognition of their incredible efforts, year after year.
Truly inspirational people who’ve picked up top gongs so far include Alison Tanner-Davies (pictured below accepting her award from Guide Dogs Chief Executive Tom Wright), a puppy raiser and fundraiser in Merseyside who’s been volunteering for an astonishing 30 years! Alison received the Pearl Award for Longstanding Dedication, encompassing exceptional lifetime achievement and dedication to Guide Dogs, at the Liverpool awards. Described as a “true gem”, Alison has not only raised 22 puppies with an outstanding success rate, she is also very involved with the local fundraising team and is always willing to help with new volunteers.
We were also moved by Malcolm Biggins’ reaction to being a finalist in the ‘Optimistic’ category. Malcolm is a My Sighted Guide volunteer and was nominated for his “passion, enthusiasm, positivity and optimistic outlook”, how he’s helped others to overcome barriers, and for “truly being a life changer”.
In Northern Ireland, Torie Tennant, a My Sighted Guide trainer and fundraising and campaigns supporter won the ‘Expert’ category. Nominated for her “can-do attitude”, Torie helps train new volunteers coming into the service across both Northern Ireland and more recently, Scotland. As a guide dog owner herself, she also draws on her personal experience of living with sight loss to inspire volunteers to understand the importance and impact of the My Sighted Guide role.
“Guide Dogs have compiled excellent training for new volunteers but Torie's delivery and input takes it to a different level. Thank you Torie for being so generous and open with your personal experiences and for being an absolute joy to know and work with.”
Paula McLarnon, My Sighted Guide Volunteer Experience Officer
The Local Volunteer Awards also recognise volunteer groups that have gone above and beyond. This saw the Enniskillen Fundraising Group win the ‘Engage’ category for their numerous collections at concerts and music events across Northern Ireland, including at an open air concert in their home town which raised nearly £400, with the event organiser also pledging to raise £10,000 to name two guide dog puppies.
A full list of Local Volunteer Award winners from across the UK will be published once all the events have taken place.
Of course, this year’s Volunteers’ Week coincided with The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend too. We were thrilled to hear that two of our very own volunteers were among those receiving the Royal Voluntary Service’s Platinum Champions Awards, an official Jubilee project to celebrate outstanding volunteers across the country who are making a difference every day.
These are Keith Sykes, a previous Guide Dogs People Award winner, who started fishing tournament Lucy’s Bowl ten years ago to raise funds for Guide Dogs in memory of his beloved pet dog Lucy. Described in his nomination as “the most wonderful, inspirational, trustworthy, reliable, dedicated and self-deprecating person it has ever been my privilege to meet”, Keith has built an amazing team of trustees to help run Lucy’s Bowl and overseen it grow to the point where they have now raised over £100,000 for Guide Dogs.
Meanwhile Anne Skinner was recognised for being a puppy training extraordinaire, having cared for and raised 50 guide dog puppies.
“One of the most inspiring women I know. Ever since I can remember there has been a puppy at Granny’s side. I knew what Granny did was special from a very young age, persuading her to bring in the puppy she was training at the time to my primary school and help me explain to my class the amazing work she did, and nearly 20 years on and many more puppies later I can safely say she is one in a million.”
Anne’s granddaughter, Izzy
Congratulations and a big thank you to each and every one of you from all of us here at Guide Dogs!