It was an afternoon of celebration at The Super 6 Stadium on Tuesday as the Club’s Disabled Supporters Association were officially presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Mrs Snowdon, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Durham was a special guest to hand over the highly-regarded award to Darran Hutchinson and Neil Appleyard of HUDSA.
The Lord-Lieutenant was greeted in to the Centenary Lounge by a welcome party including Director of Football Craig Hignett, Chief Executive Mark Maguire along with several HUDSA volunteers and members.
Set up in 2001, HUDSA have done incredible work for some of the most vulnerable Pools supporters over the last 17 years and were given well-deserved recognition in the Queen’s summer awards.
Appleyard and Hutchinson were both invited to a special garden party at Buckingham Palace in June to commemorate the honour before receiving their trophy and a certificate personally signed by the Queen in Thursday’s ceremony at The Super 6 Stadium.
“I am absolutely delighted to be here because this award is so well-deserved,” explained the Lord-Lieutenant.
“For the Association to be in place for 17 years and to have grown the way it has is such an achievement and to be here to meet some of the people who are benefitting from the work they do is very special.
“For me, the best thing is that it’s gone beyond football now – the social activities and the respite care opportunities for families to have holidays is just marvellous.
“This is the highest award that can be given for voluntary service which makes an extraordinary difference in the local community so everyone involved should be very proud.”
After the speeches and formal presentations, the Lord-Lieutenant posed for some more photos pitchside before spending time chatting to other invited guests at the event.
“This has definitely been one of the best days of my life,” admitted Appleyard.
“The trip to Buckingham Palace was amazing but this was on-par if not better because we were able to share it with people we’ve known and worked with along the way.
“We understand that the Queen herself chose us as winners – a panel put their recommendations but the Queen has the final say so that make it even more special.
“I have been doing voluntary work in one way or another since I was 15 so to be involved in getting recognition like this when I am 60 is overwhelming really.”
The Club’s Chief Executive Mark Maguire commented: ““We’re extremely proud of HUDSA and everything they have achieved over the past 17 years.
“Neil and Darran, along with all the other committee members and volunteers, have gone above and beyond to ensure that we have a Disabled Supporters’ Association which is a credit to the Club.
“It speaks volumes about the work that they have done that other football clubs have since followed in their footsteps and copied their blueprint.
“We look forward to continuing out close relationship with HUDSA in the years to come and I would like to congratulate them such a prestigious and richly-deserved award.”