Preston dancer Becky Rich has won the Volunteer of the Year award at Lancashire County Council’s Pride Awards 2016. Her proud father Simon Rich tells AASMA DAY how becoming involved in dance has had amazing benefits for her as well as making a differences to the lives of people with disabilities
DANCE is such an important part of Becky Rich’s life and as well as keeping her fit and active, it has boosted her confidence and allowed her to meet many other people.
Becky, 26, who lives in Fulwood, Preston, was born with Down’s Syndrome but hasn’t let her condition stop her from doing anything and is a high achiever, living a full and active life.
Becky first became involved with DanceSyndrome in 2014. DanceSyndrome is an inclusive arts charity that aims to inform and empower people through dance.
DanceSyndrome workshops are led by trained dance leaders with learning disabilities who are supported by professional dance artists.
They are creative and fun learning opportunities for anyone who wants to improve their physical health and personal wellbeing, regardless of age or ability.
When Becky first started attending DanceSyndrome sessions she was a little bit nervous, which is quite normal when starting something new, but since taking part in the weekly workshops and DanceSyndrome’s unique ‘Dance by Example’ leadership training course, her confidence has grown enormously.
This increase in confidence, combined with her improved dancing and leadership skills enabled Becky to independently take on the role of dance leader at Gerrard Street Day Centre, separate from DanceSyndrome.
She now runs her own dance class there every Friday.
It was because of this work that Becky was nominated for the Volunteer of the Year award by Garry Dawson, who is a manager at Gerrard Street Day Centre in Preston.
The award celebrates volunteers who have made a marked difference to the life of an individual or community and consistently deliver outstanding service.
The Pride awards are Lancashire County Council’s annual awards to celebrate the achievements of their staff and volunteers.
The ceremony took place at The Harris Museum in Preston, with a total of six awards given out to individuals and teams who have shown commitment to helping the people of Lancashire.
Simon Rich, Becky’s dad, says: “Becky was born with Down’s Syndrome and had a heart defect, was a very poorly baby and had an operation when she was five months old at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool.
“Becky has annual check-ups and everyone involved in Becky’s care throughout her life has been faultless and our experience of the NHS has been a great one.
“Becky is wonderfully confident and determined and lives an active life.
“She has always loved performing arts and became aware of DanceSyndrome and became involved with them and is now a dance leader running her own dance group as a volunteer for Lancashire County Council.
“It was wonderful for Becky to be nominated for this Volunteer of the Year award and we are thrilled that she has won it.
“Dance is very important to Becky. Quite a lot of young adults with disabilities have found it difficult to join mainstream dance groups and this is a perfect avenue and outlet.
“DanceSyndrome are doing a wonderful job and have created a vehicle for people to have great fun and involvement in dance and to achieve fulfilment.”
Garry, manager at Gerrard Street Day Centre, says: “Becky is an exuberant and vibrant volunteer delivering sessions that continuously grow and develop.
“She has provided people with disabilities the opportunity to learn and develop skills, confidence and enjoy meaningful activity and has been a role model to the group.
“Ultimately, each person involved is always excited to see Becky and fully participate and engages in something of great worth and positivity.”
Becky was delighted to be announced as the winner of the award.
She says: “To win Volunteer of the Year Award 2016 is a lot to take in.
“It is very exciting to win the award and knowing that I am making the lives of people with disabilities better is the best reward.
“Thank you again to Garry Dawson for nominating me, to all my dance students at Gerrard Street and also to all my fantastic friends at DanceSyndrome.”
Dawn Vickers, DanceSyndrome’s managing director, says: “We are so incredibly proud of Becky.
“She has gone from strength to strength since joining us.
“She really excels in leadership, she’s a fantastic spokesperson and she’s a young woman on a mission to make society take notice of the assets of people with learning disabilities.
“We have always known Becky has a lot of skills and talent to offer, but it is wonderful to see other people recognising that outside of her work with DanceSyndrome.”
* If you would like more information about DanceSyndrome, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, call: 07597 942494 or visit the website www.dancesyndrome.co.uk
• DanceSyndrome was established in 2009 by founder and creative director Jen Blackwell.
• Jen has Down’s Syndrome and wanted to follow her dream of being a dancer and dance leader.
• The DanceSyndrome ethos is that everyone has the right to follow their own interests and passions, whether they have a disability or not.
• DanceSyndrome offer dance leadership opportunities to people with learning disabilities and empower them to co-lead high quality inclusive dance workshops which are delivered to disabled and non-disabled participants across the North West.
• The hard work and innovative approach of DanceSyndrome founder and creative director Jen Blackwell was recognised when she was chosen as the winner of the Inspirational Woman of the Year award at the Enterprise Vision Awards in September 2015.
• The inspiring work of DanceSyndrome was recognised at a national level when their dancer leader team, including Becky Rich, was announced as the winner of the Sporting Choice Award at the National Learning Disabilities & Autism Awards in July 2016.
• The Sporting Choice award was designed to celebrate a person or team who have worked creatively to develop sporting activities in which people with learning disabilities and/or autism can participate and enjoy.