A Lostock Hall community group which is on a mission to help prevent cardiac deaths has scored a hat-trick after winning a top footballing award.
Lostock Hall Juniors Football Club was named the Lancashire FA’s Club of the Year 2019 at a glittering ceremony held at Bolton Wanderers FC’s Macron Stadium.
It was one of three groups to be shortlisted for the accolade and was crowned the winner for highlighting the importance of heart health.
Chairman Darryl Cartwright said: "We didn't expect anything. We were just having a good night so we were shocked when our name was announced. It was fantastic."
It is the latest in a trio of successes for the community champs this year, which includes being shortlisted for the Leisure Industry category in the UK Heart Safe Awards. It will see the club compete in October against three big organisations, including Everton FC in the Community and Lancashire County Cricket Club.
The football lovers also won Community Project of the Year in the South Ribble Sports Awards 2019 for creating a Cardiac Smart/Heart Safe Environment and in 2018 they became one of only a handful of junior clubs to be given a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, an MBE for voluntary groups.
Darryl added: "We're a small, grassroots group so to win awards regionally and nationally is just amazing. We don't go looking for them but it's a big pat on the back when we do receive them."
This latest achievement recognises the group's work with the ambulance service to become a Cardiac Smart club, during which it overtook many national organisations by gaining gold status.
Through fund-raising and donations, it has purchased a defibrillator for each venue it uses while one of it voluntary coaches is a paramedic lecturer who teaches around 200 people a year in CPR and defibrillator use.
And a partnership with charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) has seen the Juniors coordinate 200 heart screenings over one weekend in June.
As well as community work, the club is passionate about making itself as inclusive as possible, having abolished annual membership fees and set up a scheme allowing parents to swap their children's old boots rather than shell out for the heavy costs of two or three pairs a season.
But in addition to its good work off the pitch, the group also received its latest award for helping its young players grow into healthy adults.
"Fun and development is our priority over winning at all costs - gaining trophies on the pitch is just a bonus," Darryl said.
"We have many voluntary coaches who put in loads of time and effort, and the children and their parents are brilliant. Without them and our sponsors, we wouldn't exist."
Despite having around 35 teams, 600 young members and more than 75 volunteer coaches, the club is still expanding, and now needs both a permanent home and more recruits aged 16 and over to become coaches.
All initial training, mentoring and CPD will be provided by the club and county FA, following a successful FA Enhanced CRC/DBS application.
No previous experience is necessary.
For more information about voluntary opportunities, search for Lostock Hall Junior Football Club on Facebook.