Fleet Young Person Of The Year Award 2009

Richard Bennett Receiving His Award From Sharyn Wheale, With Colin Gray (left) And Two Members of Fleet Pond Society Committee, On A Very Snowy Day At The Pond

Cathy Holden writes:

Fleet resident Richard Bennett was thrilled to have been named Fleet Young Person of the Year 2009, but disappointed that he was unable to carry out part of his prize, the switching on of the Christmas lights at the Fleet Festivities last November, as he was still at university.  However, his brother James proudly stepped up and switched on the lights on his brother’s behalf. Richard also won a £100 Outdoor Adventure voucher, an engraved glass trophy and a certificate recording his award.

This new award was funded as a joint project between the Hard District Council (HDC) Community and Partnerships and Hart Youth Partnership. It was organised by the Fleet Festivities Partnership and presented to Richard by Sharyn Wheale, Chairman of Hart District Council last week while Richard was home in Fleet during his university break.

Denise Roch, Manager of the Hart District Youth Team agreed with Charlotte Tickner, of the Hart District Youth Office, who spoke for the whole team and said of Richard,

‘The selection committee felt Richard has shown remarkable qualities and resilience.  He has also shown commitment to projects and his community that are to be admired.  We were particularly impressed with the breadth of voluntary work he is involved with. We, as a committee, wish Richard luck with his future plans and community involvement and believe he is a tremendous asset to any community lucky enough to have him.’

Richard (20 years old) was recommended for the award by Colin Gray, Chairman of Fleet Pond Society, backed up by Jim Storey President of Fleet Lions 2008/2009.

Richard’s citation read that he had joined the Fleet Pond Conservation Volunteers in September 2003 and took part in the monthly conservation management tasks. He was also a ‘Looker’ for the society, a team or people who keep an eye on the grazing animals at the pond. The ‘Lookers’ walk the reserves paths regularly to ensure the animals are in good health and report any potential problems to the Fleet Pond ranger or to the farm from whom the animals are leased.  This is particularly important as only one ranger is available at weekends to look after all of Hart Council’s 1,500 acres of nature reserves and open spaces.  At that time Richard kept an eye on four Shetland ponies, three young bulls and two cows grazing two areas of the nature reserve.

Unfortunately, Richard developed the condition Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and lost a whole year’s education as he became too weak to continue with his studies. In the second and third year of the illness Richard began working towards his A levels via online education facilities, achieving the A grades necessary to claim his place at Bath University.

However, Richard was not content to sit at home just continuing his studies, he volunteered to work from home with the ME support group, Association for Young People with ME, organising the sales of promotional goods to raise money for the organisation and supervising six other supporter volunteers in this task.

The Fleet Pond Society volunteers were delighted when Richard’s fight back to full health and strength resulted in him rejoining them in April 2008. University life has not kept Richard away from them as he always attends their conservation mornings when he is back for the holidays.

Richard finds time in his studies to help out in the local community in Bath and he has become an assistant scout leader with 31st St Barnabas Scout group, recently obtaining his warrant as a leader. He also helps another scout group with their weekend camps.

Colin Gray congratulated Richard as a ‘Very worthy winner of the award, someone who has both overcome personal adversity and put a lot back into his local community be that here in Fleet, or in Bath where he is currently based at university.’

This article will also be appearing shortly in Fleet News & Mail.

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