Local Hero of the Year Finalists

This award recognises an individual that has worked tirelessly to make an impact on sport in their local community. Your local hero could have washed kits for 30 years to ensure the team looks its best week in week out or be someone who has campaigned to keep a local sports facility open to the public. Here are this year’s final three:

Denham Elvin

After being made homeless at the age of 17, the 29-year-old has not only turned his life around - but is now using cycling as a means of reaching out to the community while turning run-down areas into cycling havens.

Denham spent seven years living in a homeless hostel and council accommodation but, thanks to his passion for cycling, is now helping the sport reach an entirely new audience - and ensuring that others have the opportunities that were denied to him.

The Southampton-born cycling enthusiast has succeeded in using cycling as a means for transforming estates riddled with drug-use and gang crime into safe havens for cyclists of all ages on the south coast.

One of the three cycling centres was a trashed children’s play area near an estate in Thornhill. The track opened in 2006, with organised sessions for young people every week.

Denham says: “The biggest reward is seeing the projects completed with the kids growing in self-belief and interacting with each other and with adults. Some have gone from what many people would consider as a lost cause to working in bike shops and even cycling at a national level. I feel lucky to do what I do.”

Saba Nasim

Saba has been inspiring and empowering girls through a weekly cricket session since 2013, achieving her coaching qualification through cricket charity Chance to Shine and using her skills to help other girls enjoy cricket through the creation of the Redbridge Rangers.

It has not been an easy journey, with Nasim admitting she has had to overcome some significant barriers, the main one simply being getting through the doors of schools. After negotiating lunchtime sessions and basic advertisements in PE classes, girls began to join the team.

Nasim’s main aim is to provide a safe and healthy, girls-only space where its members can not only improve their cricketing ability but also develop their social and life skills, from confidence and teamwork to CV writing tips and first aid. It’s an ambition she has and continues to deliver on.

Three years on and, thanks to the tireless work of their coach, the Redbridge Girls Street project are a stronger side than ever, with 60 girls aged from eight to 18 attending weekly training sessions. Collectively, the team have won seven Chance to Shine competitions with three of the older participants finding the confidence and skill to join Wanstead cricket club. She was recently named a ‘Point of Light’ by former Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Wendy Russell

Starting in 2014 in Brighton, Wendy has pioneered a project alongside local groups and other sports providers, to give deaf people and their friends and family in the local community the opportunity to play hockey.

By doing so, she has not only enhanced the lifestyles of those she coaches, she has also done her bit for British sign language.

Deaf in one ear herself, Wendy is well aware of the impact hearing difficulties can have on those looking to take part in sport. Her motivation came after she saw statistics suggesting that only 12% of young deaf children take part in sport out of school, a figure that falls to just 3% when they have left school. Shocked by those statistics, Wendy decided to do something to about it.

Such is her dedication that she helped create 40 new language signs that were specific to hockey, getting them ratified and then producing a video to show them to the deaf children she coaches. Those signs have now become official in British Sign Language thanks to her efforts. It’s her love of the sport, though, that maintains her enthusiasm on the dark, cold nights of winter. “It’s still the session I look forward to most during the week,” she says. Her young players feel exactly the same.

The winner will be announced at our ceremony on 7th December presented by Ben Shephard.

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