London Sport Awards 2021 nominees: The Elite Sport in the Community Award - Saracens Foundation
SARACENS Foundation are celebrating after reaching the final shortlist for a prestigious London Sport Award.
Led by Senior Development Officer Tomas Gamage, from High Barnet, the group aims to help all different aspects of their community by bringing people together using the power of sport.
The Saracens Foundation, based at the rugby club’s StoneX Stadium, are one of three final nominees shortlisted for The Elite Sport in the Community Award, in association with the Mayor of London, to be revealed in the showpiece event at London’s Guildhall on 6 December.
The Foundation, the charitable arm of Saracens Rugby Club, were founded in 2000 to address the needs of the north London and Hertfordshire communities and use sport as a vehicle for change.
Their programmes cover the breadth of the community and work with all ages and social groups – from school-age children to 100-year-olds.
And Gamage, 29, said: “We believe that at some stage, anybody may need an extra helping hand.
“We truly understand what the power of sport can do, on your physical and mental health but socially as well, so it’s incredible to see the impact that we can have.
“I played sport throughout my life, and I know what it’s done for me, and ultimately I know that without sport, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
“What we as a Foundation like to do is to give back and allow people who may not have had the opportunity to play sport get involved.
“It can be really inspiring.”
Over the last five years, the annual London Sport Awards, in association with the City of London Corporation, has grown to become the biggest celebration of grassroots and community physical activity and sport in the city.
And this year’s showpiece event will once again recognise, celebrate, and shine a light on the stories of the incredible individuals, groups, and organisations for their outstanding work across the capital, helping Londoners of all ages and backgrounds to be physically active.
During the pandemic, the Foundation’s ‘Together Active’ online video series consisted of over 127 videos created for disabled young people, older adults, and young people, with pre-recorded videos viewed over 60,000 times.
They were encouraged to get physically active from home using sessions such as ‘Love To Dance,’ which provided dance sessions for over-50s to support their physical and mental health, improve their life expectancy and tackle social isolation.
Hemel Hempstead resident Saphire Finlaytre-Gaskell, project officer at the Saracens Foundation and organiser of the Strictly Sarries dance classes, believes dance classes can be a game-changer in tackling social isolation.
She said: “It’s so important, and you can see how much our participants enjoy their sessions.
“Personally, I find it so rewarding delivering these sessions because you can see how much everyone loves it.
“The parents let us know that their children look forward to our sessions, and they get opportunities like the end of year performances and performing on match days; we understand the importance of getting these kids together.
“I can’t stress how important it is to make sure disabled people get these opportunities.”