Highlighting importance of Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, founded by Prince Philip
In 2001, I was privileged to be appointed County Chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, a post I proudly remained in for ten years.
During my tenure, I was charged by the Regional office to arrange a big fundraising event to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the award.
Together with Nikki Hamilton-Street, the county organiser of all the schemes units, and the backing of the committee, we approached the Fontwell Park racecourse management to see if they would allow us to hold a special race day. To our delight, we were offered their Irish race day on September 30, 2006. Even more exciting were the regional office’s efforts in securing the presence of HRH Prince Edward, the Duke of Wessex to attend. HRH at that time was the chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award international arm, covering all the commonwealth countries and more.
The next step was to attract some punters (literally). I approached a contact in the City hoping to sell some places and within minutes, I received a call back from their PR department saying they were looking to put on an unusual corporate event, and took all 100-plus places in the pavilion. In order to accommodate others, we took on Fontwell’s marquee, another sellout.
Planning what to do at the event besides watching the races was the next challenge and Nikki came up with the idea of holding a ‘Golden Trangia’ (primus stove) competition for all the units in the south east region. Strangely, Jersey, Germany and Cyprus are part of the south east.
The task set was to cook a meal for the first night of their expedition. Each team had their own space marked out and an Army chef adjudicated.
Whilst walking around the competitors with HRH he predicted who would win and he was spot on.
An auction was held that raised a good lot of money for the awar,d and enhanced with fine weather, the day was a huge success with HRH spending over four hours with us. I was fortunate to attend several Gold Award presentations at St James’s Palace where Prince Philip spoke to all the regions putting them at ease.
To have a Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award on your CV is a passport to a good job as it tells any prospective employer everything they need to know about the character you are.
The icing on the cake came for me when I was invited to attend Buckingham Palace to witness Her Majesty the Queen conferring a Royal Charter on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award to mark its Golden Jubilee.
I’ll never know how I was allocated a seat on the front row but, having a bird’s-eye view, it was very emotional to hear our Queen with a catch in her throat as she presented the Royal Charter to her husband with obvious glowing pride and love for his amazing and enduring achievement in encouraging literally thousands and thousands of young people, world wide, to discover what they were capable of and at the same time, having fun.