Falcons trio up for Parliamentary Community Awards

Tuesday 04 July 2023 Written by: Adam

One of the clubs leading the way is Newcastle Falcons, which has representation in three of the four award categories, with one exceptional young local man and two mentors shortlisted.

Their stories, alongside the compelling, uplifting and emotive stories of all those shortlisted, will be shared at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards ceremony, taking place at the House of Commons, and attended by MPs on July 11.

The Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards are a celebration of the incredible work and impact achieved by Premiership Rugby and its clubs through their community programmes which are rolled out nationally at over 200 locations.

These awards demonstrate that their collective commitment to supporting communities is making an invaluable contribution to addressing some of the biggest societal challenges.

Premiership Rugby aims to help tackle inequalities that exist, believing whole heartedly that all young people, no matter their background or ability, should have equal access to sporting opportunities which help them fulfil their potential.

**Reece Wray, Outstanding Achiever of the Year Award**

East head Impact are proud sponsors of this award designed to reward a participant who has excelled in any of Premiership Rugby’s education, health or social inclusion programmes, highlighting the potential of the game to change lives off the field.

Reece joined the HITZ programme at Newcastle Falcons back in September after tragically losing his father and grandfather in close succession. Happening shortly after his 16th birthday and just before he was due to sit his GCSEs, understandably his mental health was severely impacted, and Reece struggled with low moods and thoughts of self-harm.

Losing both father figures in his life, Reece desperately needed support and stability which HITZ provided at a time when he could have lost his way. Incredible inner strength saw Reece finish school and sit his exams. With GCSE results not as positive as they might have been, he made the positive choice to join HITZ which has seen him excel in the last 12 months.

Reece has thrown himself back into education and sport to develop himself personally and academically. He regularly volunteers with the CAST at Falcons supporting match day operations, as well as at his local rugby club, coaching young people and helping them to access sporting opportunities. The Cast is proudly sponsored by Elm.

Reece vowed to support others and give his best despite going through the most challenging of times. This is evident in his willingness to learn, achieve and help others in the group at HITZ with a consistently caring and positive attitude.

With Reece now referring to his peers and mentors at HITZ as his ‘family’ it has given him the foundation to go forward in life. Having recently completed his Level 2 Rugby Coaching award, Reece is now looking to progress onto Level 3 Sports Coaching with an ambition to become a full-time professional sports coach in the future.

**Marie Chambers, Community Volunteer of the Year Award.**

CVC are proud sponsors of this award designed to recognise a person who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the community through their work at their local Premiership Rugby club.

Each has utilised not only their spare time, but their life experience, passion and dedication to help support the lives of others.

Despite her own physical challenges and health issues, Marie has supported and mentored others helping them to believe opportunities exist for everyone. Her nurturing approach produces the confidence in many to take the most important first steps to turning their lives around and achieve what they never thought possible like securing employment for the first time or breaking a cycle of dependency.

The inspiring impact Marie makes on those she works with on the HITZ programme, the CAST volunteer group and her work at Chilli Studios, a local art studio supporting those suffering from mental health problems, makes her an invaluable member of the local community.

Marie volunteers on average 20 hours a week and converses passionately about the important work of the Newcastle Falcons Foundation to everyone from spectators to board directors. The result of Marie’s high levels of engagement has contributed to doubling the income from the Foundation Flutter tickets to allow greater investment in community projects.

Her kind and patient manner when she mentors new HITZ students is a contributing factor in helping them change the direction of their lives. She is encouraging and challenges students constructively, leading to strong bonds with all the young people she supports. When asked what motivates her to help people with such a wide range of backgrounds and abilities she is humble with her response, and says that seeing others thrive is her reward.

**Dan Simpson, Community Coach of the Year Award.**

Sponsored by Premiership Rugby, this award is designed to reward and recognise the coach who has gone above and beyond to change the lives of members of their local community through their work on Premiership Rugby programmes.

Dan is the longest-serving community development officer at Falcons, helping to introduce an average of over 2,500 new players to the game annually over the last 12 years. This unwavering commitment to developing and inspiring a new generation of rugby players is driven by his passion to showcase how rugby can be the positive difference in young people’s lives.

Dan takes time getting to know every participant on the programmes to find out what motivates them, enabling him to relate to them on a level they are comfortable with, to ensure they feel welcome and valued.

An integral part of the delivery of the HITZ, Project Rugby, Defender Premiership Rugby Cup and Premiership Rugby Champions community programmes, his hard work and unrelenting commitment to developing rugby within the North East have established him as a well-respected recognised figurehead in the community.

The difference Dan makes is largely down to his unique way of breaking down barriers, and importantly the perceived barriers to playing rugby. His personable approach gives new players the confidence to learn, play and enjoy rugby.

Dan knows how to get the best out of people. Having been an apprentice himself, he draws on his experience and uses this to deliver engaging lessons and coaching which has resulted in increased numbers of young people playing at clubs from those groups who wouldn’t traditionally play rugby.

Community programmes such as HITZ, Project Rugby, Champions and the Defender Premiership Rugby Cup are just some of the initiatives that Premiership Rugby run nationwide to support around 250,000 people in communities fulfil their potential.

Wayne Morris, community & CSR director at Premiership Rugby says: “For many of the nominees their journey with a Premiership Rugby community programme started off against the odds, or with uncertainty around getting involved. However, every single story is one of progress.

“Every person shortlisted has improved either their own life or the lives of others. We’re passionate about using rugby to change lives and our community awards are a real showcase of just how much a difference our programmes and our clubs and foundation teams make. I applaud you all.”

Visit [**www.premiershiprugby.com/community**][1] for more information.

[1]: http://www.premiershiprugby.com/community