Two Surrey men have been rewarded for their hard work around the game of cricket with LV= Pride of Cricket awards.
ACE Programme coach Simon Jackson has received the Community Hero award while Sutton teenager Joe Lunn has posthumously been awarded the Fundraising Hero title.
An effervescent, confident, kind-spirited young man, the Sutton Cricket Club wicketkeeper-batsman Lunn , who died in March on his 19th birthday, was adored by the community he left behind.
And his incredible fundraising efforts in the months between being told he was unlikely to live beyond the end of 2019 and his untimely passing this spring are recognised today with the posthumous award of the LV= Insurance Fundraising Hero title for 2021.
Joe was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare and incurable cancer which affects around one in a million people, in April 2019 after initially being admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis.
“You’d never know he was going through it, apart from when he’d boast about the scar he had from his chest to his belly button,” his friend and Sutton teammate Sam Schofield said.
“There was never any complaining, he was still full of beans, full of life. Obviously he would have had his low moments but it was testament to his strength that he would never let you know what was going on, it was only ever positive with him.
“I still can’t get my head around it. I would probably struggle to be as strong as he was.”
Joe took on a solo, 100-mile bike ride in his back garden in August 2020 – a makeshift solution when his initial plans to compete in the Prudential Ride Surrey-London 100 were scuppered by Covid restrictions.
“He borrowed a static bike and did it in his garden, surrounded by his loved ones,” Schofield said.
“He set himself a target of eight hours to complete it and did it in six-something, so the character he showed to get on with it was again incredible.
“It was Joe being Joe… what’s really hard? Okay I’ll do that then. Of course he was going to be successful.
“He never backed down from anything, and was always one you’d want on your side. He was always up for a bit of a battle and that was definitely how he took on his illness.”
Joe raised more than £16,000 on that ride, while in excess of £35,000 has since been raised in his name.
Jackson has spent the past year integrating the ACE programme – a cricket project designed to open up the game to members of the black community – with Whitgift School, where he is the academy head coach.
The former professional cricketer mentors the under-14s and under-19s in the ACE initiative, as well as acting as one of the project’s lead coaches. And he is a valued member of both the ACE and Whitgift teams.
“The subject of cricket is supposed to be fun, and that’s his starting point for most sessions,” Whitgift head of cricket David Ward said.
“He wants them to learn, he gets them to learn, he likes their opinions and takes a lot of them onboard but his starting point is having fun. He gets them all involved and by the end of the sessions they go away with a smile, as well as learning something too.
“He is wholly balanced, whether he’s dealing with an 11-year-old or an 18-year-old. He just understands the lads, whatever age they are.”
It was Simon’s idea to use the Whitgift facilities for ACE work, following through on one of the school’s mission statements: to encourage students to give back to the community and to explore causes that are personally meaningful to them.