A TEENAGER from Chafford Hundred who volunteers hours of his spare time to help his local cub and scout groups has been nominated for an Essex Police Young People of the Year (YOPEY) award.
Patrick Hennessey, 15, of Fleming Road, was nominated by his mum, Christine who is proud of her son’s commitment to help others.
Christine, 50, said: “Patrick’s willingness to help others is lovely to see in someone his age. Anytime he is asked if he can help he will, he never says no. His connection with other young children is wonderful. Nothing is too much, his greatest attribute is his amazing kindness. Whatever a person’s age or ability he looks beyond that and helps them achieve their goal.”
As a nominee for YOPEY, Patrick is in with a chance of winning a cash prize from £2,300 put up by Essex Police and the other sponsors including Runwood Homes for the elderly.
YOPEY is endorsed by the leaders of both main political parties. Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls the contest as “a wonderful celebration of Britain’s youth” while Opposition Leader David Cameron describes YOPEY as a “flourishing social enterprise able to provide recognition for inspirational young people”.
YOPEY is the brainchild of former national newspaper journalist Tony Gearing, who became fed up with the ‘bad press’ inflicted on the young. He set up YOPEY to give the younger generation a fairer image and encourage more young people to give to the community.
This is the third YOPEY in Essex after the movement started in Hertfordshire in 2005 and has spread so far to nine English counties and the whole of Scotland. £100,000 has been won by young people who are positive role models and ‘give to others’.
Patrick began his voluntary work when he joined the Docklands Scout Project. Having experienced the activity centre first hand as a scout he knew the pleasure it bought and wanted to give others the same opportunity. The project opens from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon and is based in the West India Docks in the East End of London. The activities available to youth groups include sailing, canoeing, kayaking and power boats. For the last three years Patrick has been a quartermaster, requiring him to attend at least three weekends but his enthusiasm has seen him attend 15. He does whatever is needed from making sure the boats are safe and ready for use to instructing children how to sail, canoe or kayak.
Patrick said: “I really enjoy helping people and seeing their smiles as they have just as much fun as I do. My friends think what I do is stupid, but they’ve got the wrong idea about what being a scout is. When I tell them all the great things that I’ve done some of them change their mind. It’s horrible that they think like that but I try not to let it bother me.”
Recently Patrick’s dedication to the Docklands Scout Project has seen him promoted to senior quartermaster which is unusual for someone of his age.
Dad John, 49, said: “My son has really impressed me the way that he helps other young people and will go the extra mile. His enthusiasm for whatever he is involved in has motivated me so much that I am now a volunteer with the Docklands Project.”
Volunteering with the scouts then made Patrick think about helping his local cub group. Having thrived on the challenges as a cub himself he wanted to put his knowledge to good use. As soon as he was old enough he contacted his old cub group Thameside Cubs to enquire about being a young leader. He was invited to attend the next week’s meeting. Two years later and Patrick is still enjoying his role. He dedicates two hours every Wednesday when he gets involved in setting up and tidying the hall and more importantly helping children with the evening activities or working towards achieving a badge.
When Patrick is not being a young leader or senior quartermaster he can still be found talking to cubs and scouts across the county about his other interest – snakes. Patrick became interested in snakes after a talk at his primary school. Since then he has gained first-hand knowledge with his own collection which includes two Royal Pythons and seven Corn snakes. From his first talk at his own cub group word of mouth has led to him giving 15 talks.
If Patrick’s voluntary work with the cubs and scouts was not enough he has also been involved with the ‘Essex Experience’ for the last two years. This camping event takes place over a weekend and is an opportunity for under-privileged children to learn new skills through activities, such as canoeing and archery. Getting involved in preparing the campsite and ensuring the children enjoy the activities safely are just a few of the ways in which Patrick helps the weekend be a success. Patrick added: “Being a volunteer is great because I have had so many amazing experiences. But more importantly I get pleasure knowing that I am helping others. I’m even looking at doing some more voluntary work at a local activity centre.”
At school, Chafford Hundred Campus, Patrick likes to get involved where he can. His most recent commitment was for a leading role in a Hairspray production. Using lunchtimes for rehearsals was no big deal and paid off with outstanding performances. Dad said: “Watching Patrick perform on stage was fantastic. It bought a tear to my eye and hearing some of the comments from people around me made me incredibly proud.”
Founder Tony Gearing said: “Having to deal with pressure from his friends can’t be easy, but Patrick has shown his maturity by rising above the comments and doing some incredible work with a number of community groups. He is an outstanding youngster and an inspiration to other young people.”
The Essex Police Young Person of the Year will win £1000 – £500 for themselves and £500 for a good cause of their choice that works with young people. Second place will win £500, third £250 and there will be a Junior Essex Police Young Person of the Year winning £250. There will also be several £50 runners-up prizes.
All YOPEY cash prizes are shared with the community.
In Essex this year YOPEY is sponsored by Essex Police, Essex Police Authority, Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, Runwood Homes with residential homes for the elderly throughout Essex, and GlaxoSmithKline’s Harlow operation.
• Do you know any inspirational young person or group of young people who deserve to be recognised? The Essex Police YOPEY is open to young people aged from 10 to 25, who should live, work or study in Essex. Logon to www.yopey.org or send an SAE for an entry form to YOPEY, PO Box 103, Ware, Herts, SG9 0XD. Young people can nominate themselves.