Barry Kilby, the outgoing Chairman of Burnley FC, has called for all football clubs to get behind young people and support The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.
The call comes as four young people from Burnley FC - Zak and Melissa Lewis, Shona MacLeod and Kelly Parkinson - meet HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in a special presentation at St James’s Palace today (Tuesday) to receive their Gold DofE Awards.
Burnley FC opened its doors to The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 2006 and is one of more than twenty clubs in the country offering young people the chance to develop and grow through the DofE.
Burnley is now the largest football club DofE group in Britain with more than 300 young people taking part in the DofE and was the first to see its young people achieve Gold DofE Awards.
In one of his last moves as Chairman Barry Kilby, who is presenting the wards today, said: “We are delighted to see the success of these young people recognised publicly today.
“We are a football club rooted firmly in the community. By giving the next generation the chance to do their DofE they can realise their potential and make themselves more attractive to employers at a time when young people need all the help they can get.
“For us this isn’t just about giving young people something to do, we believe it is our duty to the future success of Burnley.
“I’m calling on the football fraternity across the UK to get behind the DofE and help young people kick start their futures. With youth unemployment at an all-time high, clubs like ours need to give back to the communities that have supported them for so long.”
Lifelong Burnley FC supporter and former Prime Minister’s spokesman, Alastair Campbell, who is also attending the presentation, added: “Burnley FC has always taken seriously its role in the wider community. We may not be top of the Championship right now, but we were the first to give young people the chance to do their DofE through a football club, and the Burnley FC DofE group is the largest of any football club in the country.
“These awards represent a tremendous achievement for the club and for the young people who have seized the opportunity to increase their skills and experience. I commend them on their success and wish them well for the future.”
According to official figures, Burnley is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, with high levels of unemployment and economic inactivity among 16-24 year olds. Each year more than 300,000 young people (14-25) from all backgrounds embark on their DofE in the UK. Research shows that employers value the DofE when they are recruiting as the most important achievement after academic qualifications, and that the DofE has a significant impact on young people’s employability.
Peter Westgarth, The DofE’s Chief Executive, said: “Critically, the DofE is able to offer an alternative route to skills, experience and personal development that could help young people in what is a really tough jobs market right now. Anyone can do their DofE and we want to double the number doing their DofE regardless of circumstance, giving many more the chance to fulfil their potential. Burnley FC’s work is helping us realise that goal and we thank Barry Kilby for his generous support and commitment to our work.”
An inspiring story of success - Zak and Melissa Lewis
19-year-old Melissa Lewis and her brother Zak, 26, both received their Gold Awards at St James’s Palace today, having done their DofE through Burnley FC.
In the course of doing her Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards, Melissa volunteered at dog kennels, worked with the Guides, and played and coached football. Her favourite experience was learning about the police, which involved testing off-licenses for illegal sales of alcohol at weekends. This led her to join the police cadets and Melissa earned a Young Citizen Award from the High Sheriff of Lancashire. Melissa plans to apply to the Police Force in the future. Being part of the DofE has developed Melissa’s compassion and ambition, as well as a really strong work ethic:
“I loved doing my DofE. It allowed me to broaden my horizons and try new things that have helped me make decisions about my career. It’s given me real confidence and improved my ability to lead or solve problems and deal with tricky situations. Without the DofE I would have missed out on a whole range of life experience and I’d recommend anyone to give it a try. You just don’t know which direction it will take you in.”
Zak Lewis, 26, Melissa’s brother, has autism with severe communications difficulties. In the course of looking for activities to pursue, he tried a couple of groups with Burnley FC. He joined the Gold DofE Award group with his sister and didn’t look back. To achieve his award he did dance, drama, rambling, voluntary work on a book stall for the Samaritans and fundraising for the local Hospice. He went into training for the expeditions by carrying a rucksack full of bottled water to build up weight.
Zak loved the expeditions. He liked being part of group and to people watch, listening to the banter and conversations. Joining in with the football kick-about in the evenings was a huge pleasure for him.
In doing his Gold DofE, Zak has flown the flag for autism awareness. Being able to participate in a mainstream activity is crucial and his DofE Award is testament to that. For Zak, the DofE opened up a world of opportunity and with the right support of adults and peers, his Mum believes there is no reason why others shouldn’t follow his lead:
“I’m really proud of both Zak and Melissa. The DofE has meant totally different things to each of them and allowed them to blossom individually. I truly believe the DofE is something anyone can do with the right support. It’s had a huge impact on our family and given us all new directions to pursue for the future.
“As for Zak’s new challenges, who knows? Janet, his personal assistant, is fearful I might suggest Kilimanjaro. As she says, life is never boring where our family is concerned! I’m just glad Burnley FC was able to give Zak and Melissa the chance to do this.”
Burnley FC DofE Award Manager Matt Hargreaves “This is a fantastic achievement for all young people. Zak and Melissa have shown that the DofE Award is something that all young people can participate in, and benefit from. This year we are working with over 300 young people to help them achieve a DofE Award. We want the DofE Award at Burnley FC to be accessible to every young person who wants to get involved, and we are working hard with schools, colleges and partner agencies to make this happen. If you or someone you know is interested taking part in the Award then please contact Burnley FC on 01282 700001.”