Standout Finalists Scoop Team Scotland Stars Judges’ Choice Awards

September 29, 2020

In celebration of the successful Team Scotland Stars Awards, which saw a huge range of inspiring nominations and thousands of votes in online polls, Mark McGuire and Helping Hands Edinburgh have been named the recipients of special Judges’ Choice awards for their efforts over the lockdown period.

First launched in June of this year, Team Scotland Stars recognised those going above and beyond to help others through the Coronavirus pandemic, with a series of monthly awards which garnered huge support from the Scottish public. Each month a panel of judges whittled down the nominations to just four finalists in Individual and Group / Organisation categories, with the final decision coming down to a public vote.

The Judges’ Choice awards recognise two finalists whose achievements and dedication struck a chord with the panel over the three months.

In the Individual category this was Mark McGuire, a University of Stirling student and former Mountain Bike Cross Country athlete, who raised over £29,000 for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) in memory of his best friend Ben Forsyth who passed away in 2018. He took on the incredible challenge of running 30 marathons in 30 days (a staggering 786 miles of running, taking just over 125 hours).  Mark initially aimed to raise £500 and increase awareness for CRY, far surpassing his target. The money he raised will allow young adults and athletes to get screened for heart conditions they may not know they have.

He said: “It was amazing to raise so much money and awareness for Cardiac Risk in the Young, a charity very close to me. I never thought I’d raise nearly that amount! The support throughout the month was insane which kept me running and smiling. For sure the challenge was very tough physically and mentally though, with week one of the challenge being a shock to the body! My feet and knees did not enjoy week one. It means so much to me raising money for CRY which can fund heart screenings and support the charity.”

In the Group/Organisation category it was Helping Hands Edinburgh’s huge impact on their local community that caught the judges’ eye. Their People’s Free Food Program during the Covid-19 pandemic has delivered thousands of free cooked meals, survival packs of non-perishable food and toiletries, fresh fruit & veg boxes and recipe packs, providing people in housing schemes across Edinburgh with the means to cook nutritional meals. Free online keep fit classes and mental health videos, plus a Helping Hands Sports Club via the Strava App, are helping people to stay active. They have also delivered hundreds of new bikes to kids in need throughout Edinburgh, as well as running a recycle a bike initiative, supporting staying active and making healthy life choices.

Jim Slaven, Helping Hands Co-Founder said: “Thank you so much to Team Scotland and the judges for recognising the incredible hard work of our volunteers. Helping Hands strategy, which is based on creativity and collective action, continues to grow and deliver remarkable results in communities across Edinburgh. As Scotland’s biggest all-volunteer organisation, and rejecting all state funding, it is the time and effort of our volunteers that are central to our approach. So it is wonderful to see the positive outcomes we are delivering being recognised in this way.”

Paul Bush OBE, Chair of Commonwealth Games Scotland said: “Our two Judges’ Choice winners stood out for their incredible commitment to helping others through difficult times and the recognition is truly deserved. A huge well done to all our other winners, finalists and nominees across the three months of these awards. They have highlighted just a snapshot of the ongoing support from athletes, clubs and organisations to individuals and communities in need across Scotland. It’s been inspiring to see the Scottish sporting community rising to the challenge in these unprecedented circumstances. These examples show just how important sport is in making a difference, not only to individuals, but to the fabric of Scottish life and how vital it is that that sport at all levels not only survives but thrives as we enter a new stage.”

Falkirk Junior Bike Club and Kevin Brooks from Nairn Boxing Club were named the first ever winners of a Team Scotland Stars award back in June, both inspiring others to stay active through the new reality of lockdown. FJBC’s impressive fundraising activities for a local hospice and innovative Cycling Passport scheme gave them the nod, while all were inspired by former Scots Guard Kevin, who kept training going for his boxers while caring for his autistic son, as well as using his own experiences battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to help others.

In July, Stenhousemuir FC topped the poll after coordinating one of the largest community initiatives in Scotland, still ongoing, involving almost 200 volunteers and providing support to 350 vulnerable households every week. In July’s Individual category Cartha Queens Park’s first team coach Thomas Davidson took the plaudits for his innovative ways of ensuring all players and club members were kept involved and engaged.

Gymnastics led the way in August with Beacon Rhythmic Gymnastics Club and Chris Chalk from Central Gymnastics Academy sweeping the top spots in group and individual categories respectively. Beacon impressed with their emphasis on the health and well-being of all their members, as well as a series of virtual competitions attracting entries from across Scotland as well as further afield, while Chris’s dedication and creativity stood out in building a new normal online and outdoors for members and non-members alike when facilities closed.

Once current restrictions have been lifted, all Team Scotland Stars winners will be invited to a Team Scotland event where they will presented with their award and receive the recognition they deserve.

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