Athletics club and charity, Fitmums & Friends is proud to announce that its founder and chief officer, Sam Barlow BEM, is a regional winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s Unsung Hero 2021 Award.
The BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s Unsung Hero Award recognises the volunteers in sport whose efforts are making a difference to our communities. This year’s winner for BBC East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire is Sam Barlow, founder and chief officer of local charity, Fitmums & Friends.
Fitmums & Friends is passionate about supporting everyone to be more active. It offers running, walking, cycling, boot camp, buggy and junior athletics sessions which enable men, women and children of all ages and abilities to be active in friendly and supportive groups.
Sam started Fitmums & Friends in 2009 as a way to meet and socialise with other parents, and her idea quickly grew. Today, there are 11 Fitmums & Friends clubs across Hull, Yorkshire and North East Lincolnshire with more than 850 members. For the most part, its sessions are organised by a network of dedicated volunteers. The organisation became a registered charity in July 2017. In 2019, international runner and five-time Olympian, Jo Pavey, joined the charity as its patron.
Sam continues to lead the development of the charity, supporting existing activities and introducing new programmes to enable more people to access regular exercise and feel the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity and social connections. Sam also coaches adult run sessions and particularly enjoys coaching junior athletics sessions.
In October 2020, Sam lost her husband, Mike, following a long battle with cancer. Sam used this personal experience of bereavement to develop a programme of walking and yoga sessions for adults and an outdoor activity project for children which now support others in Hull who have experienced the death of someone close to them.
Vickie Hillier, deputy chief officer of Fitmums & Friends, explains why Sam is a deserving winner: “Sam’s initial desire to keep active and make friends herself has grown into a passion, enthusiasm and willingness to help others be more active in a supportive, friendly environment. That passion is infectious and is the drive that keeps our activities moving and new ones developing. It means Fitmums & Friends has helped thousands of people over the years since it began.”
Sam responds: “It is such an honour to have been recognised for this award, especially knowing how many amazing unsung heroes there are in communities across the region doing invaluable work. It is particularly meaningful in this first year of losing my husband, Mike, who so believed in the work we do and supported so many people himself through activity. I feel lucky to work with a team of volunteers who ensure we can help people to reap the benefits of being active in so many different ways and, most importantly, to feel connected to a community in the process.”
The overall winner of the Unsung Hero 2021 award will be drawn from the list of 15 regional winners and announced live at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards on Sunday 19 December on BBC One.