11 September 2018

YMCA East Surrey has reached the finals of a prestigious national youth awards ceremony, due to be hosted by TV presenter Miquita Oliver in November.

The local youth charity, which has operated in East Surrey since 1871, will compete against YMCA Norfolk and YMCA Burton for the title of YMCA of the Year in the annual Youth Matters Awards.

In addition, local YMCA volunteer, Ben Spearman Oxx, is one of three young people from YMCAs across England and Wales to make it through to the finals of the Young Volunteer of the Year category.

Youth Matters is YMCA’s national awards programme that has been an integral part of the charity’s calendar since 2009. Other award categories are Young Achiever of the Year, Young Leader of the Year, Young Campaigner of the Year, Young Worker of the Year, Best Project of the Year, Diversity Award, as well as two special awards with winners chosen only by the judges, Red Triangle Award and We Believe Award.

The YMCA of the Year Award recognises a YMCA that has delivered in the past 12 months an innovative and inspiring local project, programme or scheme, which has created a tangible and positive impact on young people and the wider community.

YMCA East Surrey made it through to the finals after being shortlisted by YMCA judges and finishing in the top three after more than 10,000 public votes were submitted. It was nominated after an exceptional year of growth, with its inclusive services currently supporting over 14,000 local people.

Building work started earlier this year on the charity’s Inclusive Sports Facility after six years of planning and three years of fundraising. This is due to be completed before the end of 2018, enabling YMCA East Surrey to offer more health and wellbeing services to people with disabilities and health conditions who are most at risk of being inactive. Over £2.5 million has been raised, including £495,000 from fundraising challenge events.

Ben’s place in the final was secured through similar shortlisting.

When he first approached YMCA East Surrey, Ben, 21, was recovering from a very serious illness. Although he had completed a Level 2 Hospitality and Catering Course at college, he lacked confidence to apply for a job and was suffering from depression. Over time, Ben found supporting others helped to build up his own mental strength and is now essential to the running of the YmmmCA café at the YMCA Sovereign Centre in Reigate. Volunteering with the YMCA has led to him securing other volunteering positions and his commitment and dedication to the café and YMCA East Surrey is unwavering.

Ian Burks, Chief Executive of YMCA East Surrey said: “We feel incredibly privileged to be double finalists at these awards. We are representing everything great about YMCA, including our staff, volunteers and young people.

“Ben is an inspiration to us all. He’s a dedicated young volunteer who has shown tireless commitment to YMCA East Surrey and contributed his energy, skills and time.

We hope everyone in the local community is proud of him, proud of us and supportive of what we have achieved together.”

The overall winner in each category will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony at the exclusive central London venue, 8 Northumberland Avenue, on Friday 2 November.

Youth Matters celebrates the outstanding skills and achievements of young people from across the country. It also recognises the vital work YMCAs deliver every day to help transform the lives of young people and give them a brighter future.

For more information on Youth Matters, visit www.ymca.org.uk/awards.