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​Help decide who wins our Above & Beyond Award! Voting now closed!

Above & Beyond Annual Award – Sponsored by Jaffa!

This is an award for an individual or group who have quite literally gone above and beyond in their community!

Voting is was open until Sunday 31st October where you can help us decide who will be the overall winner. The following candidates have been shortlisted as the top 4 in the ‘Above & Beyond’ category.

Ben Griffin

Nominated by: Brett Sirrell

Reason for nomination:

Ben thoroughly deserves this award for his acts of bravery and courage in saving the life, from drowning, of his friend and fellow paddler, Robert Aires, on two separate occasions.

I have known Ben and Robert since they were junior racing paddlers roughly aged 12 while I was coaching them as div 7-9 paddlers. They are now very competitive paddlers racing in Division 2/3. Robert and Ben have just turned 18yrs old.

The first incident occurred earlier in March 2021, I was not present but this is the account of what happened as I understand it.  They were both training together on our local water, the River Leam at Royal Leamington Spa. Shortly after their warm up, Robert fainted and started to have a seizure, falling out of his boat into the cold water.

Ben was able to pull Robert to safety, where he kept Robert safe and warm giving him first aid. Ben manage to catch the attention of a member of the public and further support arrived.  Robert received medical attention and was later diagnosed with possible epilepsy.

After a period of rest, doctor’s consultation and assessment by the coaches at the club Robert was keen to carry on paddling and continued to train.

The second incident occurred on 22nd April.  On this occasion I was with Robert and Ben during the training session where I witnessed Ben’s bravery to save his friend’s life in action.

We were on our last interval and the pace had picked up a little.  Ben leading the main wash.  Robert on his right (slightly behind Ben, out of his eye-line). Robert dropped off the wash and immediately rolled over and fell out of his boat. I didn't suspect that Robert had a problem at this point, yet Ben with quickly reacted knowing the situation was serious based on the previous incident. Ben was out of his boat and safely waded and swam out to assist Robert. Lifting him out of the water to make sure he could breath. Robert was fitting more uncontrollably and it took all of Ben’s strength to get him across the river and to the bank.

I administered first aid to Robert as he was still fitting at this point. While I was looking after Robert, Ben was immediately stopping passersby’s for help and calling an Ambulance. Robert was taken to hospital and assessed. Robert has since made a full recovery, he is now taking medication for his epilepsy.  Both continue to train and race regularly together.

As a witness to the second incident it made me realise how much of a trauma it is for anyone to be involved with this type of situation.  I cannot imagine firstly how Ben has been able to cope having been in the same situation on two separate occasions and also its even more remarkable was the way Ben reacted when faced with the situation for the second time.

I also know Robert would want to see Ben recognised for going above and beyond to save his life. For these reasons, I thoroughly believe that Ben would be a suitable candidate to receive recognition for his truly amazing actions.

Yvonne Merrills-White

Nominated by: Nicola Taylor

Reason for nomination:

In 2019, I suddenly lost a large parentage of my sight due to narrow angle glaucoma. Which despite quick intervention, eventually led to me being registered as blind/severely visually impaired. 

For the last two years since, I have felt very isolated. Where I had started training to use a white can and begun attendance at support groups, covid-19 quickly put an end to this and my confidence was gradually getting worse than ever. 

Due to these setbacks I required my husband or daughter to be with me during any periods of time spent outside the family home and even then suffered with intense anxiety surrounding every trip, be it a walk to the shops or necessary medical appointments.

This brings us up to a month ago, my husband started taking me along to Manvers Waterfront Boat Club as he himself believed the community there at the club to be a welcoming, accessible and safe environment for me.

After that, knowing it would be safe for me to be alone there and that it gave a chance for me to get much needed fresh air, my husband officially joined their dragon boat team. Fast forward a few weeks and one of my husband's teammates, who is also one of the coaches at the club, Yvonne Merrills White, enquired as to why I remained on the embankment instead of participating in any of the wider activities available. My husband informed her of my condition and the anxieties I had surrounding being visually impaired.

Yvonne went above and beyond to approach me, whilst with my husband, and offered to provide me with an opportunity to be coached/introduced to kayaking. I accepted this request with some amount of trepidation and, as I am not ashamed to say, spent the next four days fretting over whether I had made the correct choice in going ahead.
This brings us to the day of the aforementioned coaching; I had spent the hours prior considering so many excuses and reasons as to why I couldn't go ahead with it but nevertheless arrived at the boat house with my husband beside me. 
I was greeted by a very calm and enthusiastic coach who made efforts to understand what such a sport would entail for someone in my position. For the first time since my initial diagnosis, I felt like someone was really talking to me instead of about me or looking to my husband for the answers. 

Yvonne made a conscious effort to always approach me from the front when speaking or if she was out of sight - would reassure me of where she was or what I should've been doing.  Only proceeding on with the session when it was clear that I was comfortable. This showed her incredible patience with me. 

I feel it necessary to say that despite being able to, my husband wasn't accompanying me out on the water and this did raise my anxiety in some areas of the session. But Yvonne handled this excellently to the point that by the end of the appointment I can honestly say it is the most free and independent I have been able to feel since losing my vision. Such was my new burst of life that I don't remember a time I've smiled as much!

If there was ever someone who embodied the idea of going above and beyond for those they were teaching then it would be Yvonne.  She gave back to me something I had lost and had nearly accepted that I'd never be able to get back. Though there is still a very long road for me, I can say with honesty that this woman and the wider community of this club may have saved my life.

In communications since, she has shown clear understanding of what it takes to help me along and offered to regularly continue these sessions at no cost, simply out of the goodness of her heart and ambition to help me succeed.

Me and my family will never be able to thank this woman enough for what she has returned to my life and done for our family as a whole. My daughter has said to me that she has got a piece of her old mum back, what price can ever repay being told that?!

Daniel Hall

Nominated by: Ruby Hall

Reason for nomination:

Daniel goes above and beyond with supporting the local club - Wolverhampton Canoe Club. He’s there to open up and usually the very last to leave. Dan gets the boats out and makes sure they are all ready for the sessions. He gives the instructors their tasks and is comfortable giving instruction to our youngsters or older members. He is knowledgeable of club admin and expectations to ensure members have a fantastic experience. As parents turn up with their children, he is bombarded with questions whilst getting groups out on the water. He is there for us all. You will find him at the club five days a week. He leads from the front and inspires us all.

Sarah-Jane Coombes

Nominated by: Del Christie

Reason for nomination:

Sarah has been tirelessly working with Southend’s SAVS and Trust Links as well as the local council to help promote paddle sport. Sarah regularly offers and runs paddle socials, get-togethers, She Paddles sessions, walks, dips and swims and volunteers for the local Coastguard Rescue Team. Sarah is always there on hand and devotes most of her spare time to answer questions and messages.

Sarah in my honest opinion goes above and beyond. 

How to vote for choice! 

Please click here to complete the following voting form and cast your vote for the nominee of your choice, and feel free to share this far and wide within your circles. This voting form will be live until midnight on Sunday 31st October, so be sure to get your votes in.

Once again, thank you to everyone who nominated, and congratulations to everyone who has been shortlisted.

Happy voting! BC Annual Awards Team