Football coach Dave Saunders has lifted his latest trophy – a Teesside Hero Award.
The 54-year-old Eston dad has been honoured for the decades of tireless community work he has done for the people of Grangetown and the surrounding area.
And it’s fair to say he was stunned by the honour when Andrew Rowe, from Wynyard accountancy firm Baldwins, took to the pitch to make the special presentation on behalf of Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, the charity behind the awards.
“It was a complete surprise, I was absolutely stunned,” said Dave, who is married with two stepchildren.
“I’ve been involved in grassroots football for 42 years and have seen thousands of youngsters come through the teams at Grangetown.
“I got involved at the age of 13 when I set up the junior section back in 1978 and it has just continued and continued from there.
“I love it, at the end of the day it is great to see young footballers get inspired. One of the biggest things is getting them involved and keeping them off the streets
“To be honest, it is a privilege to be able to give so much back to the community. You don’t realise how much people haven’t got until you get involved.”
Dave has been coaching youngsters and running football teams at Grangetown for the past 42 years, supporting, mentoring and inspiring literally thousands of kids both on the field and off it.
Once a year he organises Dave’s Charity Trophy in memory of his 26-year-old stepson Craig who collapsed and died at home 10 years ago. The football event raises thousands of pounds for local causes.
He also runs a recycling project, Boots for the Community, which has so far recycled 2,500 pairs of children’s football boots across Teesside and County Durham.
In December 2018, he also set up a project called Pre-Loved Toys and Household Furniture aimed at helping Grangetown families who, through hardship, can’t afford the basic things others take for granted in life. His efforts have provided help to hundreds of families.
Dave was nominated for the Teesside Philanthropic Foundation award by patron Nigel Willis, from Redcar company First Choice Labels, and previous Teesside Hero Award winner Tony Wedlake.
“Over 40 years Dave has coached, supported and mentored thousands of children, all from
underprivileged areas. Many of these children are now fathers and their sons are coached by Dave,” said Tony.
“Grangetown families struggling with nothing are getting help from the Teesside community through Dave’s efforts.
“Dave isn’t just a Teesside Hero but to the people of Grangetown, he is up there with Glen Durrant as Grangetown’s greatest ever hero.”
As part of the award Dave will receive £1,000 from the Foundation to put towards a charity of his choosing. He will put the money back into the football club to help fund its young teams.