The awards for our 2017 Student of the Year were made on Saturday morning at our Whitehaven dojo. The class was swelled in numbers as some from our other clubs also came along to help support this important occasion.
Every member had an opportunity to vote for their choice of both senior and junior winners. What was the reason for each vote? What sort of things did each consider? Well that’s the beauty of these awards. There is no defined formula or score to reach. The choice is entirely personal.
As is tradition, last year’s winners, Owen Hughes and Sophie Cullen, made fitting handover speeches that involved some thank-you’s and an insight on what being Student of the Year has meant to them. Young Owen reminded his yet to be announced successor of the responsibility in holding the honour. He told everyone how the award had encouraged him to try his best, push even harder than before and aspire to be a great example for fellow members. Without a doubt, Owen and Sophie have both worn their crowns well this year!
Once the applause for the outgoing speeches died, Sensei Chris Denwood read aloud some of the comments voters had written in support of their junior choice. I listened to words like “dedicated”, “focussed”, “helpful” and realised quickly that they could apply to so many members. The winner’s attributes were further described until young Harvey Hurst’s easy going, always smiling, conscientious approach to karate finally led the audience to his shocked and surprised face – he was our 2017 recipient!
Harvey is an outstanding young man, who struggled to muster much more than a “thanks” through his shocked and beaming face. And that’s the beauty of this award right there in that moment. He won the award for how he trains and how he affects others, not just his karate. And yet, he was totally unaware of how much his approach to training is noticed and appreciated by members, assistants and instructors alike. A modest and unassuming, yet very talented young man. Congratulations Harvey on an award well deserved!
The senior award this year went to one of our longest standing members, Tom Duggan, who joined the dojo following some self-defence courses led by Chris a decade ago. He stood out to me when I began training, not because of his significant height but because of how much he helped me. Very much a true gentleman with nothing but praise and encouragement for everyone around him.
Tom represents the real nature of our group. A formidable karateka, plus a patient and supportive role model. He is part of our closed dojo and active support group committee member, playing a key part in defining the very karate we practice. The voter’s comments reflected the fact that Tom is indeed the epitome of what every karateka should aspire to. Congratulations Tom on a fitting accolade long overdue!
As you’d expect, Tom’s speech was as unprepared and as short as young Harvey’s! However, there was little time anyway following what was probably the longest applause I’ve ever heard. True recognition that these awards were so well deserved. It also allowed time for a beautiful celebration cake to be presented for us all to enjoy. Big thanks to former SOTYA winner Peter Hinde for such a kind gesture, and to Danielle Leeson for sharing with us all her amazing baking talents! Trust me; I tried a small piece. It has covered lunch, tea and tomorrow’s breakfast :-)
The first duty for our newly crowned Students of the Year was to select from the “hat” the names of two charities (local and national) that will benefit from our Community Fund donations this year. Thanks to monies raised throughout last year, we were able to support the St Bees RNLI and Great North Air Ambulance. This year, we're able to donate to two more deserving charities.
For our local charity, Harvey pulled out Alice’s Escapes, a South Lakes organisation that provides holiday respite for sick children. For our national charity, Tom pulled out MacMillan Cancer Support. Watch this space for news about these donations and when we’ll be presenting.
So, big thanks to our members for taking time to vote for SOTY, for attending the dojo to support the award presentations and for giving so generously to our Community Fund. Plus of course, a final congratulations goes to our two very deserving winners.