The Times Awards 2021: Community Hero

Mark Donaldson of Dereham Town Youth Football Club

Mark Donaldson, chairman of Dereham Town Youth Football Club, is winner of the Community Hero award - Credit: Brittany Woodman

The Community Hero in the Times Awards 2021 is Mark Donaldson of Dereham Town Youth Football Club. 

Mr Donaldson is chairman of Dereham Town's youth set-up, and is responsible for looking after and coordinating the 12 teams from under-7s level up to under-16s. 

He started coming to Aldiss Park when his son was attending Mini Kickers, and steadily became more involved with the club as the years went on.

Mark Donaldson, chairman of Dereham Town Youth Football Club, with chief reporter Tom Chapman

Mark Donaldson, chairman of Dereham Town Youth Football Club, receives his Community Hero award from chief reporter Tom Chapman - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Then, in June 2020, he became chairman - right in the thick of the pandemic. 

Mr Donaldson has, therefore, had to navigate particularly troubled waters, but has been saluted for the terrific job he has done by parents, club colleagues and young footballers alike.

Collecting his award, he said: "I'm stunned and delighted to win. It's hard work doing this, but it's recognition for that. 

"I don't know all the other nominees, but my wife actually nominated Ellie Farnworth! And she would have fully deserved it because she has done some amazing work in Beetley. 

The signs are good for Dereham Town. Picture: Ian Burt

Aldiss Park, the home of Dereham Town FC - Credit: Ian Burt

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"Ultimately my role is to make sure all the coaches, parents and players have a safe and happy environment to operate in. 

"Getting through Covid has been hard work - a nightmare, to be honest. There has been so much stopping and starting.

"We've had to respond to all the guidance from the FA, complete risk registers, and cancel and rearrange fixtures, so it has been tough.

"The club is more than just me. There's a great team, and as a committee we work together to ensure things run smoothly."

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