An east Antrim man was one of two Northern Ireland winners at the prestigious 2017 MS Society Awards in London.
Tom Hunter from Islandmagee was named ‘Volunteer of the Year’.
Tom has MS and is a volunteer counsellor for the MS society. Originally starting on his own, the project has grown to a five day a week service with a network of counsellors providing support to people affected by MS.
Tom was nominated by MS Society NI Director Patricia Gordon, who said: “For people living with MS their lives are being enhanced by Tom on a daily basis and thanks to his ambition the service is growing and has a long bright future in which to continue that positive impact. I am so pleased Tom has been recognised at a UK level, his dedication and commitment to volunteering is both humbling and impressive.”
On picking up his award Tom said: “I am delighted to have won, I volunteer to contribute and play my part, it is rewarding in itself but to have our counselling service recognised is fantastic.
“I used to be a financial broker in London but moved back home for a less stressful life. After I was diagnosed with MS I decided to retrain and take a completely different path. I always tell people I can empathise with what they are going through, ‘I get it because I have got it’ is my mantra.
“I am delighted this work is paying off and I can help people.”
The Mid Ulster Group also won ‘MS Society Group of the Year’ and young carer Olivia Black (11) from Enniskillen was a highly commended finalist in the ‘Young Carer’ category.
MS is an unpredictable condition that affects more than 100,000 people in the UK, 4,500 in Northern Ireland. It’s different for everyone, but is often painful and exhausting and can cause problems with how you walk, move, see, think and feel.
Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of the MS Society, said: “With over 100,000 people living with MS in the UK, the MS Society Awards are our way of celebrating and recognising the hard work and dedication of people who make a difference in the MS community.
“We are proud to have Tom as one of this year’s winners.”
The ‘Volunteer of the Year’ category is sponsored by Teva UK. Robyn Hughes, Senior Director Specialty Medicines, said: “Teva UK Limited is proud to be associated with the MS Society Awards and to sponsor the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award in recognition of volunteers’ excellent work in improving the lives of people living with MS.”
This year’s Awards were held on 05 May at etc.venues at County Hall in London. The ceremony was attended by a host of celebrities and other household names from the world of TV, radio, music and sport.
Find out more about the MS Society Awards at www.mssociety.org.uk/awards
Tom’s volunteer counselling service for people affected by MS based at the MS Society Northern Ireland Resource Centre can be contacted on 02890 802 802.