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TryAngle Awards scheme comes of age – 9th December 2015

This weekend the TryAngle Awards scheme came of age. At Ashford`s International Hotel the 21st season culminated in the 2015 “Spirit of TryAngle” awards when Kent`s youth services celebrated some of the `best of the best`.

It all started in East Kent when a senior Social Worker, Jan askew, and one of the County`s most prominent Youth Leaders, Bill Butler, decided that young people were getting too much bad publicity and that it was time to recognise some of the unsung achievements of the County`s youth.

The tiny acorn was planted when a group of school-age students, nominated mainly by teachers and youth workers, were hauled off to the Pfizer Lecture Theatre at Sandwich, given peanuts and crisps and Coca Cola and presented with the first now-iconic “TryAngles” by the then Editor of the Isle of Thanet Gazette, Mike Pearce, myself as one of the two local Members of Parliaments and sundry Mayors affectionately now known as “The Chain Gang”. It was a decidedly low-key affair but the seed was there and from that acorn an oak has grown.

TryAngle spread to embrace Dover and Canterbury, moved to Margate`s Winter Gardens to become an evening event that could accommodate proud families and friends and then grew into the County-wide celebration, backed by KCC and many other generous sponsors, that exists today. Without the support of the County`s Police Force, local radio (BBC Kent`s Jo Burn has given magnificently of her time) , the KR and KM and other newspapers and commercial sponsors the scheme would never have achieved lift-off and if this is an opportunity to say a heartfelt “thank you” to all of those professionals, volunteers and supporters who have kept TryAngle on the rails then let me, as the Chairman of the TryAngle Awards Foundation, seize that opportunity.

It is, though, the young and largely unsung heroes of Kent that have made TryAngle what it is today. Over twenty-one years literally thousands of the bravest, brightest and best have been nominated by schools and youth groups, by uniformed organisations, by sports cubs and by friends and relatives, and the assessors have, each year, had a mammoth, exhilarating, stimulating, humbling and at times distressing task in trying to choose, from so many nominees, those to come forward for the District awards presentations.

There are the young carers, some not even in their teens, who without complaint are looking after sick parents, raising siblings, doing housework and attending school seemingly simultaneously. Those of us have tried to raise families know just how hard that task is as an adult and can only begin to comprehend how a twelve year old can cope.

There are those who have overcome life-threatening illnesses and terrible injuries and, with enormous courage, gone on to achieve great things. Sadly, and inevitably, some of those award winners are no longer with us but their memories are reflected each year in The Spirit of TryAngle.

There are wonderfully talented musicians and dancers and actors who have not only received recognition and awards but have helped to entertain the audiences as well. There the County`s young sportsmen and women who have trained relentlessly and with determination to reach their personal best and, sometimes wider and national success also.

There are the cadet and other uniformed groups who have received awards and also helped to marshal the TryAngle events, the Duke of Edinburgh`s Awards achievers and the groups who have carried out great environmental work in their communities.

And there are those, some of the most moving stories of all, who have, from a disadvantaged start in life, come through very personal and emotional difficulties to become shining examples, to their peers and to their families, of what can be achieved if a person is prepared to Try.

At Ashford on Sunday the Guest of Honour was the Kent and now Wolverhampton Wanderers footballer Aaron Simpson, a young man whose young career, recovery from injury and signing of his first professional contract have been the epitome of achievement through sheer guts and determination and the overall winner of the Spirit of TryAngle 2015 was Hannah Simmons, a Barton Court Schoolgirl from Faversham. Hannah used the first-aid skills learned in the cadet force to assist a passenger who collapsed on the train between Canterbury and her home station. Rail staff refused to believe that the elderly passenger was anything but drunk but her persistent resuscitation until paramedics arrived proved the staff wrong and saved a man`s life.

TryAngle does not have a motto but its message is clear to all young people: decide what you want to do and then, with courage and determination and relentless persistence, and whatever the knocks and setbacks, do it to the very best of your ability.

Our Guests of Honour at the “Spirit” and local events have all reflected this message in their own lives and we owe them a debt of gratitude for handing down a torch to the next generation.

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