Chichester volunteer receives British Citizen Award

Julie Hill, Bradley Walsh, and Alison Eddy from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
Julie Hill, Bradley Walsh, and Alison Eddy from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors

A volunteer from Chichester has received a national honour at the Palace of Westminster.

Julie Hill received a British Citizen Award for her services to volunteering, at a prestigious ceremony presented by Bradley Walsh.

55 year old Julie has been hugely involved in Back Up’s work, after sustaining a spinal cord injury in 1990. Her own injury was caused by a car accident which left her permanently paralysed from the waist down.

Back Up, a charity that works will people of all ages, aims to inspire independence in everyone affected by spinal cord injury, encouraging them to get the most out of life.

The British Citizen Awards (BCAs) were launched in January 2015, to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise by overlooked.

Julie, who is one of the longest-serving volunteers at Back Up, has been involved in all aspects of the charity’s work, from being a group leader on residential courses, right up to being Chair of Trustee’s for five years. More recently, Julie became a schools advocate for the charity, ensuring the

full inclusion of children and young people with spinal cord injury in mainstream schools.

In November 2012, Julie became a Back Up mentor, and has supported more than 20 people coming to terms with life with a spinal cord injury. She mentors people over the telephone, answering any questions they have and offering support and advice.

In 1994, Julie and her family founded the weekend festival, Ramblefest, to raise vital funds for the charity.

The festival, located in Petersfield, ran for eight years and involved a five mile hike, camping, live music, food and fundraising activities, and raised more than £50,000 for the charity. Julie’s husband, Kevin, is also a great supporter of Back Up, and has taken part in a number of fundraising activities; including a 100km walk from London to Brighton and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, which raised £2,300 alone.

Julie is keen to get involved in research projects, both inside and outside the charity. Over a long period, Julie has worked with Back Up to compile research that works towards the inclusion of people over fifty and other groups. This was a great tool in helping Back Up develop the quality of its services and reach a wider range of people.

Julie is committed to helping people with spinal cord injuries feel more confident and gain independence. For the past three years, Julie has been a Back Up wheelchair skills trainer at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Injuries Centre in Salisbury – giving people the vital skills they need to get around in a wheelchair. This training can make a huge impact on people’s lives and 91% of participants stated that they increased in confidence after attending a session.

Julie was one of 29 medallists who were honoured at a prestigious ceremony on January 26, at the Palace of Westminster. All BCA recipients have positively impacted society undertaking various activities in support of a number of causes. Each received a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medallists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.

The awards ceremony was presented by TV presenter, and BCA Patron, Bradley Walsh, who also hosted the post-event drinks reception at Church House Conference Centre.

Julie said: ““Back Up literally gave me my life back after my injury! They taught me about what I could do as opposed to what I felt I no longer could. The impact that their work had, not just on me but the ripple effect that had on my family and friends was immeasurable. To be able to give back and share my experiences has been very rewarding. I feel very humbled to receive this award.”

The awards are in partnership with customer experience management company, InMoment, and are supported by the world’s largest optical retailer, Specsavers; one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK, Places for People; leading ethical law firm Irwin Mitchell; the UK and Europe’s leading palletised freight distribution company, Pall-Ex, owned by BCAs Patron Hilary Devey; and specialist marketing, PR and communications agency, Lime Marketing – who each had representatives at the assessment day and presented the awards.

Alison Eddy, London Managing Partner at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, is delighted to see Julie recognised for the work she’s done for a truly brilliant charity.

She said: “To work so tirelessly for such a brilliant charity like Back Up for a quarter of a century is something that should rightly be celebrated.

“Back Up helps to inspire people with spinal cord injury to build confidence and independence and we work closely with them to help our clients with their rehabilitation.

“We’ve worked with Julie over the years and know how integral she’s been to the charity’s fundraising, awareness raising and ultimately making a difference to people at a time when they need it most.

“Julie has been a wheelchair user since an accident many years ago and her positive attitude and desire to help and train others is truly inspirational - it’s great to see her amazing and selfless work being recognised.”

Julie was nominated for a BCA by Back Up Course Administrator, Karim Dafallah, who said: “Many people feel their life is over after a devastating spinal cord injury, but the work that Julie does on our rehabilitative courses empowers people to live as full a life as possible. She uses her own personal experience of spinal cord injury to help others in a similar situation to rebuild their confidence and independence. She is a very special volunteer and we’re so pleased that her amazing contribution to our work has earned her a BCA award”.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage at www.chichester.co.uk/

2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChichesterObserver

3) Follow us on Twitter @Chiobserver

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Chichester Observer - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.