The Inspiring Journey of East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire’s Unsung Hero
In a world where acts of kindness often go unnoticed, there are extraordinary individuals within grassroots football who dedicate their time and effort to making a difference.
One such individual is Steph Atkinson, whose remarkable contributions for our cerebral palsy football team (Little Victories FC) have recently seen her earn the BBC Sport’s Personality Unsung Hero Award 2023 for East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (Hull children's football coach wins Unsung Hero award - BBC News).
Steph’s journey began as a mum, when she saw a poster for the launch of Little Victories FC (March 2022), and she brought her twin boys along – Henry and Herbie, who both have cerebral palsy.
As Little Victories FC grew, in November 2022, the club reached out to the parent’s and asked: “Little Victories is looking to recruit a new volunteer…”.
Motivated by compassion, Steph stepped forward, and crossed the white line as they say, to become a coach and future welfare officer.
Steph with her twins Henry and Herbie at the National Frame Football Festival at St George's Park, in May 2023, joined by step-daughter and young volunteer Lacey.
Club Founder Sophie Bartup says:
“Steph’s journey has touched the lives of so many young people and their families.
Steph’s extraordinary willingness to go above and beyond, including leading on many club initiatives, is a demonstration of her empathy and compassion that has helped Little Victories FC to create a community built on solidarity and positivity.”
Jordan Mason, Inclusion Officer at Lincolnshire FA shares his thoughts:
“Steph is incredibly deserving of the BBC Sports Personality Unsung Hero Award for East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
She demonstrates an unwavering enthusiasm and commitment to Little Victories and all that they do to support young people with Cerebral Palsy and similar conditions not just to enjoy football, but to make friends, develop their skills, grow in confidence, and thrive as players and as young people.
I first got involved with Little Victories in March 2022 when I helped Sophie to set the club up, to meet the needs of young people across Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire who have cerebral palsy.
The club has grown from strength to strength since, now with over 22 regular players.
It’s a testament to everything that Steph, and all of the Little Victories family do, that the club has seen so much success - most recently winning Lincolnshire FA’s Highly Commended Club Award at our Lincolnshire FA Awards!
Congratulations Steph - it is amazing to see you getting the recognition you deserve.
Thank you for everything you do!”
Little Victories FC collect their England Grassroots Football Award.
More congratulations came from Richard Todd at Cerebral Palsy Sport:
“CP Sport would like to congratulate Steph on the winning of a very well-deserved award.
As the Football Development Officer for CP Sport, I would not be able to support in creating new opportunities for people with CP to play Football without volunteers like Steph.
Steph should be very proud of herself and is an excellent role model to the volunteer workforce in CP Football.
Many congratulations again!”
Little Victories FC, while supporting Steph and other volunteers, has engaged with Time2Volunteer.
The Time2Volunteer Awards is where Steph’s journey came to life.
Tessa Wray, Head of Partnerships at HEY Smile Foundation said:
“Steph is such a deserving winner, she was originally nominated and won one of our Time2Volunteer Awards in October 2023.
The Time2Volunteer Awards delivered by Smile and Partners recognise and celebrate incredible volunteers across the Humber Region.
Steph was nominated by Little Victories for the Active & Sport Award, which is sponsored by Active Humber.
Active Humber then nominated Steph for the BBC Sports Personality "Unsung Hero" for East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
It is fantastic to see the hard work and dedication of individuals like Steph being recognised.”
Steph collects her Time2Volunteer Award from Active Humber CEO David Gent.
Smile’s Volunteer Project Manager Ellie Goodyear added:
“HEY Smile Foundation and Time2Volunteer are so pleased to have been able to see part of Steph’s journey through attending the club's sports sessions for filming and club volunteer nominations to the Time2Volunteer Awards 2022 and 2023.
A huge congrats to Steph and Little Victories for the recognition that this Award brings!
Steph is an amazing example of how people can support communities and we hope the energy she brings sings out to inspire other people.”
Garth de Roux, of Active Humber, shared:
“Steph's journey as a volunteer highlights the power of compassion and the immense impact that one person can make".
Steph, in her own words:
“I am truly honoured. Thank you to everyone at Active Humber for nominating me.
Without our inspiring young players, volunteers, parents and carer’s, I wouldn’t have this opportunity, I am thankful to you all.
Little Victories FC is a small club doing extraordinary things.”
Steph and her boys, Henry and Herbie.