Champion Scouters

27 January 2018

Over 50 adults from across the district came together to celebrate our amazing adult volunteers at our Champion Scouters awards evening at the end of January. Fifteen adults had been nominated as local Champion Scouters. These are adults who have made a significant impact in Harborough District over the last two years. We also celebrated with three Scout Association Commendations for Good Service and three Awards for Merit. These are National awards for very good and exceptional service over the last 5 and 12 years.

Ed Stafford, Scouting Ambassador joined us with an inspirational talk about his Amazon adventure before presenting the awards.

The citations for our Champion Scouters follow. There are separate posts for Commendations and Awards of Merit.

Erin Billington  – Gang Show 2016 Director
Nominated by – Milly Pinnock
Erin did a fabulous job directing the 2016 Gang Show. It was a great production in the end, and that was mostly down to her putting in an absolutely massive amount of work and energy. I know it involved a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears, but wanted her to know that her input made a huge difference to my kids; and that Kezia in particular is now a much more confident child because of her.


Will Panter  – Assistant Explorer Leader Mad Hatters ESU
Nominated by – Tina Taylor
Despite being involved in scouting in Harborough District for many years, Will rarely gets recognised for his achievements. Partly this is because he is happy to let others take the lime light but it is also a reflection on what a great scouter he is.  Where others like to shout about their achievements, Will just gets on with delivering amazing scouting experiences.

I first got to know Will as a member of both the local Network and the Leicester Scout and Guide First Aid Team, LeFAT, and was impressed by his willingness to get involved and undertake whatever jobs were required. As a first aider he has been part of the Charnwood team and also undertook the responsibility for first aid on our 2009 Scout trip to Kandersteg.  It was during this trip that plans were hatched to set up a new District Explorer Unit and Will seemed like a perfect candidate for a leader role.  Paul Allenby said that, “Will would never go into uniform!” but somehow the magic of Switzerland  and time just ‘helping out’ at the Hatters seemed to persuade him.

Will has been an integral part of the Mad Hatters team from day one.  It would take too long to list all the amazing experiences he has facilitated for the Explorers but suffice to say whether it is a greenfield camp in the snow in January, Bronze DofE practice expeditions in April, 24 hours of daylight on Summer camp in Iceland, organising Unit nights in October or selling burgers at Late Night shopping, Will is truly is a Scouter for all seasons.   The Mad Hatters Explorers all appreciate the commitment he has shown to the unit over the years.

Gina Spencer – Assistant Beaver Leader 3rd Market Harborough
Nominated by –  Paul Allenby
Gina works tirelessly for 3rds. She does much of the preparation for both Beaver Sections, keeps all the records and is a much loved and highly regarded Beaver Leader by all who know her. She also helps with the record keeping and badges for Hurst Scouts, and has been very involved in running the Santa Sleigh for the past few years. She is an all round absolute star!


Aaron Winterton  – Beaver Leader 1st Foxton
Nominated by  –  Neil Heptonstall
A couple of years ago our Beaver leader team were retiring and Aaron stepped up and, within weeks, had successfully ‘taken over’ the colony with some new assistant leaders. She really loves the Beaver ethos and the colony and leader team thrive with her enthusiasm. A sleepover at the Space Centre and riding our Aerial runway did not daunt her enthusiasm! She continues to inspire both children and adults and the colony thrives to this day.

Iain Dilley  – Exec Member (Fundraising) 1st Welland Valley
Nominated by – Gary Chisholm
Iain is one of those parents, who dread the thought of becoming a leader and dealing with all those children! (but he always expressed an admiration of those who could). Knowing Iain was a bit of a dealer, to which my extensive knowledge is limited to Lovejoy and Delboy, I asked if Iain could support the group in its fundraising efforts. Iain jumped at the chance and became our fundraising team! Under his guidance we have made many successful bids for equipment, made some fantastic contacts and also he manages the running of our two larger fundraising events, AYUPMEDUCK and Santa’s Sleigh. He leads on these projects with a positive and organised manner and succeeded in fundraising well over £5000 for our group already! When I look at all our equipment , I think we would not have this, if not for Iain.

Jo Osborne  – Scout Leader 1st Bowdens WeScouts
Nominated by – Helen McGeachy
Jo’s kindness and dedication to making sure everyone achieves the same in their scouting journey regardless of what disability they may have, is unwavering. There has never been a moment when she has given up on my son Callum, or lost faith in his ability to achieve the same as any other scout in his group – even when we have had some tough times. Scouting has turned a child for which at one point we had little faith in being able to function in normal peer settings, into a teenager who has purpose and pride in himself. Jo over the last 4 years has had a very large part in shaping the young man we have today.

Rob Pyle  – Scout Leader 1st Market Harborough
Nominated by – Gary Duffin
Rob took over the scout section about 2 years ago after the last leader had to leave. He had little experience of scouting but has really made it happen for the scouts and is now seeing an increase of numbers., which is a testament to the exciting and  engaging programme.


Catherine Hedgecott  – Beaver Leader 1st Welland Valley
Nominated by – Gary Chisholm
Running a section is tough. Running a new section is tougher, so imagine setting up a new Colony in a new group!

Catherine has been a cornerstone of the group and very rapidly demonstrated a thoroughness and attention to detail we should all try and aspire to. She leads other adults and Young Leaders on the beavers team with a well organised and inclusive hand. Catherine was the first of the Welland Valley joiners to complete her Wood Badge training, and also leads a full section, with a growing waiting list, a sure sign of a quality programme.

The vast majority of Beavers move up having completed their Bronze Chief Scout Award, and are keen for more as they join the Pack.

Ian Humphrey – Cub Leader 1st Great Glenn
Nominated by – Phil Reed

On 18th December Ian bade farewell to Great Glen Cub section as Akela – a day that will be written in the history of the Group, because quite simply 1st Great Glen runs through Ian like a stick of rock.

Ian joined as a Cub at age 8 and in the early seventies he became Assistant Cub Leader working with Pauline and Bob Wells for many years. Ian was a constant with the Cub section while other Leaders came and went, then in the 90s Ian moved up to be Assistant Leader with the Scout section.

Just over 10 years ago, with a bit of ‘arm twisting’, Ian stepped up to become Akela and take our Group towards 100 years.

Ian has always been there for the group, supporting our sections, driving the minibus, tidying our HQ, putting up the District marquee. One job where he is the ultimate champion is with camp toilets – always there with his marigolds and a loo brush.

Ian has helped shape the lives of hundreds of young people over his 40+ years as a Leader.  Sometimes perhaps a little frightened by that booming voice, Cubs and Scouts certainly know when Ian was around and they had done something wrong or mischievous!  Equally if they wanted some help or support, they knew who they could turn to.

It is impossible to sum up the effort that Ian has put in over so many years, but quite simply if Scouting was a paid role, Ian would be a millionaire. Ian’s work and dedication is priceless, and Great Glen Scout Group would not be in the strong position it is today without his leadership, commitment and support.

Ian is staying around to support the Group until he moves to Lincolnshire. From ALL past and present at Great Glen, around our District and County, thank you Ian and we salute you.

Ivan O’Dell  – Assistant Cub Leader 1st Fleckney
Nominated by – Cathy Howells
Ivan has been with 1st Fleckney Cubs since 2012. He has consistently and reliably supported the pack and group since then, providing some amazing sessions in particular on astronomy, martial arts and air activities. He has a great relationship with Cubs, maintaining discipline but ensuring a fun atmosphere. I would love to see him rewarded for his commitment and for being such an amazing Leader.

Laura Grist  – Assistant Explorer Leader Inclined ESU
Nominated by – Toby Taylor
I nominate Laura in recognition of her vital role in offering a fantastic programme for Explorer Scouts in the Harborough  District.  Since responding to a request for new volunteers, Laura has thrown herself into her role and quickly become a key member of both the Inclined and District teams.  Along with Chris Pillar, she has enabled members of Inclined ESU to experience a full and varied scouting programme.

Although not having any previous scouting experience, Laura has proved herself to be a natural Explorer Leader.  She maybe more softly spoken than others but her calm demeanour, willingness to try new things and determination has meant she is great with our oldest youth members.

This was particularly evident during the District trip to Croatia in 2017.  A first summer camp with 27 explorers, average temperatures of 36oC and a variety of physically demanding activities was certainly not an experience for the faint hearted. As part of the leadership team, Laura wind surfed, snorkelled, kayaked, biked and never seemed to tire.  Whether it was marshalling the kitchen at 7am or removing sea urchin spines from feet, she was always ready to get involved.

The Explorers are lucky to have leaders like Laura and I look forward to seeing where she takes Inclined in 2018.

Anna Harbidge – Beaver Leader 1st Kibworth
Nominated by – Simon Riley
Anna Harbidge has been a key leader in driving the beaver colonies at Kibworth including creation of a new colony. Working with other leaders she is very energetic (and planned) in delivering a quality and fun programme for the Beavers. Her personality makes parents want to help on the parent rota and making the start of the scouting journey, both for the youngster and parent smooth. She will be missed by the Group. However, we thank her for all she has contributed.

David Sawford  – Group Scout Leader 1st Bowdens
Nominated by – Hannah Dove and Chris Cunningham
Whatever I write here will in no way describe how awesome he is! As GSL Dave has not just influenced my life he has also inspired every scout and me, to reach for the top. Dave has a great rapport with the leaders. He encourages and supports them through the leadership journey. His commitment to the group is exemplary. Recently Dave has been doing a great job in planning and fundraising for our new hut ensuring the continuing success of the group and ensuring young people at Bowdens can continue to enjoy the benefits of scouting. We will be very sad to see Dave go as our GSL, he will be a hard act to follow.

David Sawford is the epitome of an ‘unsung hero’ and absolutely nails each element of the criteria that are required for this award!  I have been involved with this Scout group for only just under a year, in that time I appear to have only just scratched the surface on understanding exactly what efforts and sacrifices David makes to ensure that we all keep the groups ambitions, focus and momentum going.  He has fulfilled this role so well for 5 years now, with profound gusto and dedication…  Champio’nay champio’nay!

Tina Taylor  – Explorer Leader Mad Hatters ESU
Nominated by – Debbie Billington
Nights away are a big part of scouting. In Harborough District during 2016 and  2017, young members and adults completed 6,401 nights away. Everyone who leads a nights away event for young people needs a Nights Away Permit. The permit holder is ultimately responsible for the camp and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all participants.  We have 40 permit holders in the district and 25 of them used their permit at least once over the last two years.

Counting up the Nights Away Notification forms, those 25 led a total of 99 camps.  So these are adult volunteers who not only give their time each week to run section meetings but their weekends too for camps.  This is a really significant commitment especially when you add in the hours of preparation, getting kit returned, thoroughly dried and made ready for the next adventure.

Out of the 99 nights away events, Tina Taylor, our Nights Away Champion, led an amazing 13 events, including one international to Croatia, giving 760 nights away for explorers from across the district. This is an amazing commitment from a truly Champion Scouter.

Sam Gibbs – Explorer Leader Dragon ESU
Nominated by – Debbie Billington
Adventurous activities are a big part of scouting.  To lead or supervise an adventurous activity for young people you must hold the right permit.

The permit holder is ultimately responsible for the activity especially ensuring the safety of all participants. We have 21 permit holders in the district, with 18 Hillwalking permits and one each of Archery, Climbing & Abseiling, Rafting, Dingy and Power Boating.

Our Adventurous Activity Champion Scouter is the permit holder who led the most activity days for youth members over the last two years. Sam Gibbs supervised on an amazing 10 days hillwalking which has meant explorers and network members were able to complete their DofE expeditions including some at Gold level.  That is a tremendous chunk of all the activity days within Harborough District.  Thank you Sam, Champion Scouter.


Harborough – a winning team! Empowered and Proud