26 January 2015

Alan Littlewood’s life was turned upside down by a major stroke at the age of 49.

Last week, YMCA East Surrey’s Rita Wright described him as a “shining example” to other people as she presented him with a special Long Service Award for Volunteering.

Alan has now been helping out with the YMCA’s Exercise Referral group for 18 years on a purely voluntary basis.

“The stroke had more than a physical effect on me,” he explains. “As well as rebuilding my health, I had to regain my confidence. The YMCA’s Stroke Rehabilitation group helped me hugely with that and when I was asked if I would help out as a voluntary walk leader, it gave me another enormous boost.”

The Exercise Referral programme supports people with a chronic health condition or disability to regain their independence through safe and effective exercise and physical activities. Last year, it received 8375 visits, helping over 400 people.

Redhill resident Alan, now 67, has become a friendly face to many of the Exercise Referral members and their partners over the years. He has accompanied more walks than he can remember, helps members on and off the gym equipment, assists them with their safe stretches and provides friendly and encouraging chat.

“The very first day I walked in with my husband in his wheelchair, Alan greeted us with a smile,” says Marian Bromley. “We were uncertain and anxious and he put us at ease.”

Physical Activities Special Projects Manager, Rita Wright adds:

“This is a small award for a big role which Alan has played at the YMCA over the past 18 years. The Stroke Rehabilitation group wouldn’t be the same without him.”

According to last year’s Joint Strategy Needs Assessment for Surrey & Sussex, the total primary and secondary care costs that are attributable to physical inactivity in Surrey is over £17 million. 637 deaths could be prevented if 100% of the Surrey population were to become active.

Read more about the YMCA’s Exercise Referral programme or volunteering opportunities