There’s a fine line between the Inspiration and Sporting Excellence Awards.  Most of our previous finalists in the Inspiration category have inspired and achieved within the sporting arena – however that’s not the only field within which people inspire others.  Take our 2018 Inspiration Award Winner Andy Allen, for example.

Andy was horrifically injured in Afghanistan, losing both legs and partial vision when an IED exploded. Despite his life changing injures, Andy overcame adversity to become a role model for others. In 2010, he co-established AA Veterans’ Support to help people who serve or served in Northern Ireland. He also raises thousands for other charities, such as Blind Veterans UK. In 2014, Andy entered politics, becoming a member of the Northern Ireland legislative assembly (MLA).

So, who do you know?

The Inspiration Award

What’s it for?

Honouring a person or group that has overcome significant challenges, injury or disability, and whose ongoing or past outstanding achievements are an inspiration to others.

Who’s won previously?

This year, two nominees stood out as being so exceptional that they both received an inspiration Award. Buddies Luke Sinnot and Nathan Cumberland each have incredible stories that impressed the judges, and wowed the guests at the Awards Ceremony.

Luke Sinnott

Retired Captain of the Royal Engineers, Luke Sinnott was injured in an IED explosion which claimed both his legs and severely damaged his arms. He first represented his country in sport at the Invictus Games, and is now aiming for the 2020 Paralympics. He is also a trustee and pilot for Flying for Freedom, and intends to fly to the South Pole.

Luke acknowledged the teamwork involved in his achievements: “My journey has only been successful because of the great team around me. I alone don’t deserve this recognition, and there should be hundreds of people stood here.”

Nathan Cumberland

Recce Commander Nathan Cumberland lost both legs and underwent 28 operations following an IED blast in Afghanistan. Despite a bleak looking future, he became a dedicated Welfare Officer at the Defence Medical Welfare Service, supporting other Veterans and their families on their treatment journey. He has also represented the UK twice in the Invictus Games.

Nathan said: “Winning this award is a huge achievement, not only for me and the charity Defence Medical Welfare Service but for everyone that has gone through a life changing experience and has used that experience to help and support others fight their own challenges.”


Our other 2019 finalists:

Dan Richards was serving in the Royal Artillery when he lost his right arm and shoulder. To overcome negative feelings, he focused on changing his mind-set and finding new confidence. Wanting to inspire others, he became a model and began to challenge body image standards. Dan has appeared on TV’s Naked Beach, helping other people to overcome their own body issues, and in a London Fashion Week catwalk show.

David Birrell had served for 12 years when he was blown up by an IED and lost both his legs. David immersed himself in cars and racing, determined to become one of the first double amputees to race a car with no adaptions whatsoever. His first professional race took place in March 2014 and David is aiming for Le Mans in 2022!

Canada to Mexico – The Long Ride Down: Craig “Wes” Craven and Sam Jack, who’d been seriously wounded by a stray bullet in Afghanistan and beaten a 20% chance of survival and the loss of an eye, cycled 2,500 miles from Canada to Mexico. Together they raised nearly £6,000 for Help for Heroes, the charity Sam credits with his recovery.

Anna Kelton was medically discharged from the Navy suffering from Conversion Disorder, which caused sight loss and the need to use a wheelchair, as well as PTSD, depression and other issues.  Despite her illness, Anna completed a course to deliver PE in a school setting, passing with ease. Anna did manage to walk again, but – very sadly, her underlying health condition caused a cardiac arrest and Anna passed away in September 2018. Anna’s positive attitude despite a frustrating and cruel disorder made her a powerhouse, and she inspired everyone who knew her


The Sporting Excellence Award

What’s it for?

Honouring a person or team that has overcome challenges, inspired others and demonstrated outstanding achievement in the field of sport.

Who’s won previously?

Craig Monaghan

Craig lost ten men from his company during the Afghanistan tour, which left him with a traumatic brain injury and two perforated ear drums. Attempting suicide three times, he hit rock bottom. Sport helped him recover – first by representing the UK in the Warrior Games, then receiving international honours for England in the Deaf Rugby Team.  He has helped more than 120 veterans back in to sport with a programme he runs at Sale Sharks.

Craig feels that it’s important to nominate as it “gives recognition to people who have grasped the cards they have been dealt and turned their lives into something positive.”

The shortlist of finalists for 2019 was awesome!

 Michael Mellon, Team UK Invictus Games 2018 lost his lower left leg playing rugby whilst in service and worked hard to regain his confidence. He returned to sport, winning Silver and Bronze medals in the Invictus Games in 2017 and 2018.

Steve ‘Sparky’ Sparkes and Mick Dawson completed the World’s Toughest Rowing Race – putting Sparky in the record books as the first blind person to row the Pacific Ocean, taking 82 days to complete the 2,400 nautical mile route, unaided and raising several thousand pounds for charity.

Team UK Invictus Games 2018 was a group of 72 inspirational and determined competitors who represented their country, striving to overcome mental and physical wounds, injury and illness to achieve excellence in their field.

Major Sally Orange’s passion is to change the conversation on mental health.  She manages mental illness through sport and raises a smile, money and awareness for military charities.


So… Who do you know?


What now? 

If you know someone worthy of recognition, nominate them now to give them a chance of being a winner.

 You can see all previous winners on our website by clicking on the Awards tab then selecting previous award from the drop-down menu and choosing a year.

It will be fantastic if you can help to spread the word by sharing this blog to make sure as many people as possible have the opportunity to nominate whoever they feel deserves an Award!  You’ll find us on all social media channels; these tags may help when you’re sharing info: #SOA2020 #soldieringonawards

You cannot copy content of this page