A selfless St Albans youngster has won the first of this year’s Maltings Community Hero Awards 2017.
Grace Collins, 13, was nominated by her headteacher at Nicholas Breakspear School, Declan Linnane, because she volunteers at Special Olympics St Albans – a health and fitness class for disabled people.
Although technically three years too young to volunteer, Grace persisted and she was eventually allowed to help out three hours a week, with netball, circuit training, and running.
Her 17-year-old sister, Olive, has Down’s syndrome and enjoys going to the club – it was through Olive that Grace became interested in volunteering.
She said: “I am really happy, I didn’t expect to win at all.
“Since I have been doing it, it’s changed my life, it’s changed me into a lot more responsible person and a lot happier person – and I consider [the people at the club] my second family.”
She added that although it is nice to be given the award, she does not do it for praise or recognition.
As the winner of this month’s entries, Grace will receive £100 to spend in any of The Maltings shops and is entered into an finalists competition which will take place in September.
Since moving from STAGS, she has only been a pupil at Nicholas Breakspear for about a year, and in that time her headteacher said she has grown in confidence and contributed to the school community: “I am extremely proud of her, because I think as a head teacher what I have observed is that Grace has used the opportunity to integrate the young people with her friends, so these young people have been exposed to people with disabilities who they might not have mixed with before – it’s inclusive for everyone.”
Maltings centre manager Phil Corrigan said: “It was an absolute pleasure to meet Grace and to hear all about the local health and fitness club where she gives her time and energy to help vulnerable children so selflessly.
“She really is an inspiration to us all – well done Grace.”
The next winner will be announced in April