Popular Hartlepool United fans have been given the Royal seal of approval after netting a prestigious award.
The club’s Disabled Supporters’ Association have had their 17 years of efforts recognised with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
To have such recognition is very exciting, and it’s a brilliant award not just for the disabled supporters’ group, but for the town in generalNeil Appleyard
Chairman Neil Appleyard and secretary Darran Hutchinson were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace last week to celebrate winning the honour.
The association helps some of Pools’ most vulnerable supporters, holds a disco each Wednesday at Hartlepool Catholic Club, organises matchday experiences for fans and provides short respite breaks at holiday caravans.
Receiving Royal recognition was an extremely proud moment for the group.
Neil said: “It is an incredible feeling to have won this award.
“It just shows the hard work the volunteers and everyone at the association put in to deliver everything that we do.
“To have such recognition is very exciting, and it’s a brilliant award not just for the disabled supporters’ group, but for the town in general.
“It’s quite amazing for us.”
The association was set up in 2001 and currently has about 150 members.
Neil added: “To win the award just shows you how people think about the group and how we work with different people.
“The group has grown from zero to what we have now and all the things we do for people.
“It has taken us 17 years, but we’ve got there.”
Neil and Darran were among representatives of scores of other groups at the garden party, which was attended by the Queen and Prince William.
Neil said: “It was a really interesting and exciting day.
“The weather was fabulous and it was incredible to walk in there.
“You thought, ‘wow’.”
Despite the visit to Buckingham Palace, the group has not yet received the award.
That will happen at a ceremony hosted by the Lord Lieutenant of Durham, Sue Snowdon, at a later date which is yet to be confirmed.