The three largest sporting bodies in Northern Ireland have officially recognised young people involved in volunteering in their clubs.
At a joint awards ceremony staged in Belfast’s Wellington Park Hotel, the Irish Football Association, Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby put the spotlight on young sports volunteers as part of their delivery of the DSD-supported ‘Sport - A Home For Lifelong Volunteering’ initiative.
The celebration event officially recognised young people aged 14-24 who volunteer at their local sports club and have completed 50, 100 or 200 hours volunteering as part of the Millennium Volunteers GoldMark Programme.
Jack O’Connor from the Department for Social Development said: “The contribution and achievements of volunteers are essential to sport in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that many clubs and communities would not be sustainable if it weren’t for the commitment of their volunteers.”
Ulster GAA President Michael Hasson was full of praise for the award recipients.
He said: “Our sports clubs rely on volunteers and it’s great to see so many young people giving their time freely to help out. We hope the young people who participated in the GoldMark Programme will continue to be valuable volunteers for their clubs in the years to come.”
Ulster Rugby President Bobby Stewart stressed that skills gained through volunteering are transferable.
He said: “We hope the knowledge attained by being part of the GoldMark Programme will help these young people in their own personal development.”
Irish FA Football Committee representative Gerard Lawlor recognised the benefits volunteering can bring.
He pointed out: “I’ve been a volunteer for nearly my whole life and I know from personal experience the benefits it brings to the whole community. It’s fantastic to see so many young people interested in volunteering and nights like this serve to highlight the value they bring while giving their achievements the recognition they deserve.”
Jane Gribbin from Volunteer Now, which runs the Millennium Volunteers GoldMark Programme, said it was important to encourage volunteering.
She added: “The certificates for 50, 100 and 200 hours volunteering is something these young people should be very proud of as it not only highlights their commitment and passion but also their skills which are greatly sought after by further education providers and employers.”