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Help decide who wins our Engagement Award! Voting now open!

Engagement Award (sponsored by Towergate)

This award recognises someone or a group of people who have engaged paddlers and/or the wider community in paddling. Whether it be working with a community group to introduce them to paddling or keeping members motivated and feeling part of the paddling community.

Voting is now open until Sunday 28th November where you can help us decide who will be the overall winner. The following candidates have been shortlisted as the top 4 in the 'Engagement' category.

Cliff Meaden

Nominated by Sarah Venn

Reason for nomination

Cliff has been encouraging everyone to get back into paddle sports or have access to give it a go for the first time.  After a serious accident, I was really worried about going back on the water and whether I could rescue myself.  Cliff went about researching to develop rescue techniques and bespoke equipment to facilitate getting back out on the water. I have read so many books and watched so many videos to try to figure out how I could get back on the water safely and Cliff has come up with something I couldn't find anywhere, having tried paddle float, stirrup and other rescues. I have felt so welcome and not judged for trying to enjoy the sport and Cliff has enabled me to enjoy kayaking again and feel safe. I have been made very welcome when going out with groups Cliff leads, including a social paddle group that has people from all walks of life. He has embraced the call from people like 'Plus size paddler' (Facebook - who he follows to learn from) to make paddle sports more accessible and gone out and done it.

I was so impressed by Cliff I asked if he could lead a group of people with head injuries on a kayaking experience and he did this amazingly - people with catastrophic brain injuries, impinging on their cognitive and physical abilities, were able to do something they never thought possible and have been left with so many positive memories. The experience felt completely safe, fun and incredibly rewarding.

Whilst waiting for sessions, I have watched Cliff coaching children from local SEND schools with behavioral problems and he has told me about his volunteering in the local community to learn more about getting disabled people in and out of the water safely, so he can make the sport accessible to more people.  I am so impressed by his commitment to getting people on the water and making paddle sport accessible to everyone.

Lainey Drake

Nominated by Sam Keegan

Reason for nomination

Lainey started out at our club after a summer taster day and since then has been an incredibly determined paddler. More recently, she has helped to coach younger paddlers, passing on her determination and matching her approach to their needs and interests. Lainey is also an excellent advocate and role model for women in paddle sport, taking an active role in developing and engaging others wherever she can.

At 19, Lainey has volunteered to join our club committee as our "Youth Engagement Officer" and coach of our slalom and sprint teams for the annual London Youth Games.

In both of these official roles, Lainey has already brought a number of new people into paddle sport each week and challenges the young competitors to be their best in the London Youth Games competition, volunteering to support their training and racing. For many of them, this was their first introduction to paddle sport competitions.

This year Lainey's team had a great time at the Games, winning Silver and Bronze medals. They also jointly won the "Respect the Games" award for embodying the Games values of Fairness, Ambition, Inclusion and Respect. In addition to supporting her team on the day, Lainey also managed to introduce members of the local council and Mayor to paddle sport and the value it brings to the community.

Lainey is a great example of engaging others with all she does at such a young age and is a big asset to our club.

Mike Sunderland

Nominated by Daniel Wilkinson

Reason for nomination

During the 2nd Lockdown (and before) Mike seized on the opportunities presented by the shift and awareness of Online Conferencing and Zoom meetings in the wider community. He arranged access to the British Canoeing regional Zoom account and arranged for a wide range of speakers and topics to be covered on Monthly meetings. Despite being the Cumbria Region, he invited people from the bordering regions (North East, North West and Yorkshire) and ensured that this was supported through BC HQ directly advertising the meetings. 

Further to organising the lecture series, he ensured that they were fully pertinent to the community and covered topics that allowed for people to gain Continuing Professional Development points to ensure their qualifications and awards would remain active. The lectures had an average attendance of 100 people from many clubs, centres and professional providers, reaching a wide area of our community.

Neal Underwood

Nominated by Susan Templeton

Reason for nomination

Neal Underwood set the Sharks up well over a decade ago.  The Sharks are based around some of the most diverse and economically disadvantaged areas of London.  From having nothing but an idea Neal has built up teams of experienced coaches and introduced canoeing and kayaking both for fun and competition to thousands of people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicity.  Specifically on engagement Neal has:

Worked with Local Councils, members of Parliament, developers, the local Communities, other sporting organisations, Local Councillors, Sports clubs and businesses to provide facilities for paddle sport to take place. These have included small scale to large scale developments.

In respect of people, Neal has thought out of the box and put on events such as canoeing at a National Trust property engaging members of the public, local events and training sessions and supporting those who wish to compete to progress and enjoy the sport. 

Neal is very much inclusive of supporting other clubs and this extends to support to a wide area around his home base in London and into the Southern Region working in partnership with Itchen Valley Canoe Club running events.

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 28th November, so be sure to get your votes in.

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

Happy voting! BC Annual Awards Team