Newcastle United Foundation. Stars come out to recognise North East heroes at Newcastle United Foundation Celebration Dinner

Inspirational Newcastle United Foundation Celebration Dinner demonstrates 'the power of football'
06 Feb 24

The inspirational achievements of North East community members connected by Newcastle United have been applauded at Newcastle United Foundation's Celebration Dinner awards ceremony

The exclusive event, principally sponsored by Newcastle Building Society, returned to St. James' Park on Tuesday night, recognising the remarkable children, young people, families and older generations who have created positive change for themselves and the region during the Foundation's 15th year in operation.

Among 400 guests at the black-tie gala were Newcastle United co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, the club's CEO Darren Eales and Sporting Director Dan Ashworth, alongside the Magpies' first team and coaching staff, Newcastle United Women's team, former players, and Foundation supporters and participants.

Hosted by Sky Sports News' Pete Graves, the annual dinner shared the stories of inspirational individuals supported by the charity to achieve their goals in life - fully inclusive of all people and all backgrounds who are among the thousands enjoying the Foundation's new home, NUCASTLE, powered by Newcastle Building Society.

The prize-giving portion of the night saw award winners and their families meeting with first team players and coaches, including Head Coach Eddie Howe, Assistant Head Coach Jason Tindall, Dan Burn, Bruno Guimarães and Sean Longstaff, who is a long-standing ambassador for the official charity arm of the club.

Two true United greats were also inducted into the Newcastle United Hall of Fame, with Nobby Solano and Mick Martin celebrated for their outstanding contributions to their club during their time in black and white.

Steve Beharall, CEO of Newcastle United Foundation, said: "It has been an extraordinary 15 years for Newcastle United Foundation and our Celebration Dinner and awards ceremony are our opportunity to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our community.

"Our legacy stretches the length and breadth of this region and inspires and engages more than 69,000 people annually. And this season, for the first time, we will deliver more than one million hours of physical activity in the North East - we couldn't be prouder to celebrate that milestone with the people who make it possible.

"The accomplishments of our award winners reflect 15 years of passion, care and dedication through our Foundation's employability, education, health and wellbeing and personal development programmes. We look forward to another successful 15 years creating more positive change in the North East thanks to the invaluable support of Newcastle United Football Club, the Premier League and the generous funders, partners and supporters who make this possible."

The first award of the evening was presented to Holly, whose passion for football began when she joined Premier League Kicks sessions with the Foundation aged eight, enjoying every minute of play. But as a young teenager Holly's mental health deteriorated, and she no longer wanted to leave home. Kicks was the one passion she continued to pursue and support from Foundation coaches saw Holly rebuild her confidence over the years, going on to represent the charity at friendly fixtures and earn a refereeing qualification. Holly now leads Kicks sessions she attended as a child, helping other young people play, learn and build self-confidence as she did.

Host Pete Graves from Sky Sports News

Ruby earned the Young Leader Award, acknowledging her progress to become a confident student. Ruby is a young carer, balancing commitments at home alongside her own school studies. She dealt with debilitating social anxiety in secondary school and her attendance dropped, but Foundation staff in Ruby's school knew she would benefit from working in small groups in the Foundation's designated classroom. Ruby gradually found her voice, proudly delivering young carer presentations in class and assemblies. The intervention has created a lasting impact on Ruby's mental wellbeing, boosting her attendance and helping her enjoy education once more.

James was named Disability Player of the Year - honouring his resilience over the last two decades. James underwent surgery to remove a non-malignant cyst on his brain in his 40s, but the next day he suffered a stroke, leaving him temporarily paralysed. He used a wheelchair for six months, navigating life with a brain injury and it was 14 long years of recovery before James could consider playing sport again. With signposting from Headway, James was invited to join the Foundation's specialist walking football sessions supporting participants with acquired brain injuries. Despite never playing football before, James was euphoric after his first session. His confidence has improved so much, James now joins a regular walking football session and is enjoying every minute of making up for lost time.

Brooklynn's journey saw her earn the Adult Learner Award. Brooklynn was ground down by years of challenges throughout her childhood. She left school branded "unteachable" with extremely low confidence but was determined to support her family. She joined the Foundation's Prince's Trust TEAM programme, attending every day for 12 weeks and began transforming her life and the lives of those around her. She transitioned to the charity's NU Futures programme, building her employability skills and she was quickly offered two apprenticeships, choosing an accountancy role at a car dealership and has recently accepted full-time employment. Brooklynn now has a bright future ahead of her, crediting the Foundation with changing her life forever.

Kim collected the Alder Sweeney Award - an accolade presented in honour of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, two Magpies supporters who tragically lost their lives in the MH17 disaster. Kim's life was turned upside down by a rare cancer diagnosis that saw her endure multiple surgeries and years of rehabilitation work. She was forced to give up her biomedical science degree studies and was unable to work as she recovered. As a single parent, Kim did all she could to provide for her little boy and when NUCASTLE opened on their doorstep, it became a home away from home. Kim's compassion saw her build friendships with families in NUCASTLE and she regularly helped Foundation staff deliver free services for NE4 residents. Kim happily joined the Foundation team six months ago, creating positive change for countless families as well as her own.

Newcastle United Hall of Fame inductees Nolberto Solano and Mick Martin

To culminate the special evening, Joe collected the inaugural Community Champion Award. A series of significant life events saw Joe become so disruptive he was moved from mainstream education to a pupil referral unit. He left school with one GCSE, had poor mental health and no hope for the future. Shortly after leaving full-time education, Joe became a father but at the same time, tragically lost a close friend. He became determined to make something of himself and Joe's family implored the Foundation to give Joe a chance. After weeks of employability support from Foundation staff, Joe felt a sense of purpose again. He has completed work placements with the Foundation and now aims to inspire other young people to achieve, reduce knife crime in his community and be the best father to his little girl.

The charity's Celebration Dinner 2023/24 is principally sponsored by Newcastle Building Society, with Food Sponsor Bidfood, Drinks Sponsor Carling, Entertainment Sponsor Liontrust, Hall of Fame Sponsor First Class Supply, Legends Sponsor Robertson Group, VIP Networking Sponsors Harrison Foundation and True Potential and dedicated award sponsors that created an exceptional evening for all.

Newcastle United Foundation Celebration Dinner award winners

* Holly - Helen McArdle Young Achiever Award * Ruby - Young Leader Award, sponsored by Cool Designs Ltd * James - Disability Player of the Year, sponsored by Suzanne Clarke Life & Business Coach * Brooklynn - Adult Learner Award, sponsored by Consultive Solutions * Kim - Alder Sweeney Award, sponsored by Education World * Joe - Community Champion Award, sponsored by Newcastle Building Society

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