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Fifteen finalists named for BBC Unsung Hero award

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Venue: MediaCityUK, Salford Date: Tuesday, 19 December at 19:00 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app

Fifteen regional winners are in contention to be crowned the 2023 BBC Sports Personality Unsung Hero of the Year.

The honour celebrates the best volunteers in sport, whose work is making a real difference in communities across the UK every day.

The overall winner will be announced at the Sports Personality show, which takes place on Tuesday, 19 December from 19:00 GMT on BBC One live from Salford.

Mike Alden – a football volunteer – won the award last year.

The 2023 regional winners are Ruby McDonald (Scotland), Melvyn Hamer (Wales), Gareth Mahood (Northern Ireland), Megan Allen (London), Lamin Faal (South East), Terry Dennis (South), Sadie Merrien (South West), Hamsa Hassan (West), Hannah Escott (West Midlands), Chloe Gibson (East Midlands), Rachael Hutchinson (East), Steph Atkinson (East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire), Des Smith (Yorkshire), Kate O’Sullivan (North East & Cumbria), and Khadija Patel (North West).

Scotland – Ruby McDonald

Biathlete Ruby McDonald, 17, promotes inclusion at Disability Sports Fife.

Ruby, who has a learning disability, volunteers for multiple organisations – from supporting classes for younger children with disabilities to planning and delivering sport summer programmes. This year she became a member of the Disability Sport Scotland Young Persons Sports Panel – a voluntary position that will ensure those with disabilities are represented regionally.

Wales – Melvyn Hamer

For more than 50 years, Melvyn Hamer has been the life and soul of the Heads of the Valleys boxing gym in Ebbw Vale.

Former milkman Melvyn, 72, continues to run training three nights a week, transporting his boxers to and from shows, cleaning kits and the gym, and he recently helped to refurbish a community centre into a new gym and organised grants for new equipment.

Northern Ireland – Gareth Mahood

Gareth Mahood runs the Ulster Canoe Club, keeping membership costs low in order to increase diversity and inclusivity, and offering kit for free.

Having overcome personal adversity, including the loss of a child, in recent years, Gareth also volunteers with various youth groups – getting young people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity involved in paddle sports.

London – Megan Allen

Megan Allen has led community disability swimming at WeSwim Crouch End for more than two years – encouraging people with a range of complex disabilities to be active.

A volunteer club manager at Crouch End, Megan is present at every session without fail and runs the club’s social media, all while balancing her commitment with her full-time job as an operations manager at Hackney Migrant Centre.

South East – Lamin Faal

Lamin Faal is a football coach for Seaford Town Football Club’s All Inclusive (AI) teams, which were set up for children and adults who have a disability (physical or mental) and are struggling to access mainstream football.

Lamin is a stepfather to two young adults with disabilities and works three nights a week at a local care home. He is always the first to arrive at training and the last to leave, often doing so after working a night shift.

South – Terry Dennis

Since the 1990s, Terry Dennis has volunteered in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing and Para-cycling, including setting up the Wessex Accessible Cycling Club.

More recently he returned to wheelchair basketball to create a new team – the Dorset Demons – to give physically disabled adults who had been shielding during the height of the Covid pandemic the chance to get back out into the community, socialise again and take part in physical activity.

South West – Sadie Merrien

After watching her children play for Guernsey RFC, Sadie Merrien was inspired to give back to the club and became honorary secretary.

Her all-encompassing voluntary work ranges from organising club finances to cooking breakfasts, as well as being a reassuring, advisory and motherly figure to all club members.

West – Hamsa Hassan

In 2019, aged just 23, Hamsa Hassan set up NextGen Circle – a community organisation which aims to increase access to sport for young people, particularly from underprivileged areas of Bristol.

Hamsa, also a taxi driver, leads a group of 15 volunteers who deliver sport youth camps, run football teams and provide employment opportunities through NextGen’s Coach Up programme.

West Midlands – Hannah Escott

Cycling coach Hannah Escott created the volunteer-run Burlish Bike Park and Community Centre with the aim of creating a safe biking space that is accessible to all and brings together people of all abilities.

The bike park opened this summer, with more than 2,000 cyclists visiting in the first four months.

East Midlands – Chloe Gibson

Chloe Gibson was nominated by her parents for her impact on young netballers at her local club – the Cliftonettes, in Nottingham.

Chloe was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2022, but continued to volunteer her time until she died, aged 40, in June.

East – Rachael Hutchinson

Rachael Hutchinson is an orthopaedic surgeon in Norwich who co-founded Able2B – a rehabilitation service which aims to improve function for those living with a disability.

She gives more than 50 hours a week to the service, which in four years has grown to support more than 200 clients a week. Rachael also established an educational sport project which allows children with a disability to play alongside those without to change perceptions and increase inclusivity.

East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire – Steph Atkinson

Steph Atkinson, who has two sons with cerebral palsy, is a volunteer at Little Victories FC – a club in Barton-upon-Humber specifically for children with the condition.

Alongside her full-time job as a community nurse, Steph started out as the club’s welfare officer but completed Football Association training to become a coach and now plans and delivers weekly practice.

Yorkshire – Des Smith

In 1986, Des Smith set up the Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club – a safe haven for young people which supports five cricket teams and eight junior football sides as well as netball and hockey teams.

The club also delivers the ACE programme, providing a tailored environment for the development of cricketers from black communities, and Des strives to improve race relations and understanding through the club.

North East & Cumbria – Kate O’Sullivan

Tees Rowing Club coach and volunteer Kate O’Sullivan this year launched the Infinity Boat Club – a not-for-profit organisation for schoolchildren which aims to improve social inclusion in the area through rowing.

The deputy chair of British Rowing, Kate will often be up into the early hours baking for regattas, and takes huge pride in her new crews, which include asylum seekers and neurodiverse people.

North West – Khadija Patel

Khadija Patel is the founder of KRIMMZ Girls Youth Club – a volunteer-led community group that offers female-only sporting activities in Bolton.

Placing emphasis on diversity and inclusion, KRIMMZ has more than 360 members and trains and manages local coaches. Khadija has been credited with breaking down barriers in the local community for women and girls, particularly those from Muslim communities.

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