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Highland Heroes 2024: Volunteer shortlist revealed – VOTE NOW!


By Leah Williamson

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Here is the volunteer shortlist...

Rod Shannon

Rod Shannon
Rod Shannon

A beautiful singing voice, kindness and generosity of spirit have led to one of Rokzkool Academy founders, Rod Shannon, being nominated for a Highland Heroes Volunteer of the Year award.

His nomination said: “Rod is always helpful and caring, to always have food in our cupboards and somewhere to go to meet friends is amazing; the singing and laughter can be heard near and far in Inverness.”

Rod, who was a self-employed kitchen fitter and then employed by the social work department, is gobsmacked to be shortlisted for the award.

He said: “I am genuinely one small cog in a much bigger wheel. I had a very good upbringing and was fortunate to have enjoyed classical guitar lessons and arrived in adulthood with lots of skills. Not everyone is that lucky, through Rokzkool we intend to share our musical skills and help youngsters build confidence and come out of their shell.”

He continued: “As a charity we drop off emergency food boxes to the people who need it most; even then, Rokzkool is part of a bigger team because it’s thanks to the kindness of Orion Engineering group, which supplies us with a bus, that we can provide those emergency food deliveries and support people’s emotional wellbeing. On behalf of all of us who make Rokzkool Academy and our work possible, thank for the nomination.”

John Walmsley

John Walmsley
John Walmsley

A Dingwall-based pensioner who is said to have the “magic touch” when it comes to gardening has been shortlisted for a Highland Heroes volunteer of the year award.

John Walmsley’s nomination said: “He began dedicating his free time to keeping the gardens at UHI Inverness immaculate when he accompanied his granddaughter to her supported education classes. He’s transformed the gardens with impressive results. He also gardens at Balloch campus and guides supported education classes with their gardening projects.”

The green-fingered volunteer also maintains the grounds at the Highland Theological College and supports Dingwall in Bloom among other local projects.

John, who used to work as a project materials engineer as Nigg, said: “I am part of a group called Dingwall OAPs at work and we go out and do stuff in the community including selling kindling to raise funds for our local Puffin Hydrotherapy Pool and St Clement’s School. We don’t do it for praise, we do it to make a difference.”

He continued: “I’m in my twilight years; I feel like it’s my calling. I’m not supposed to sit about and do nothing, I’m supposed to help people and being part of this group of ‘pensioners at work’ enables me to do that even more. Thank you so much for the nomination.”

Michael O’Neill

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

Michael O’Neill is already a hero with “a heart of gold” to folk in Alness and many more beyond thanks to his dedication to helping those in need.

As well as being a First Responder and establishing Alness and Evanton First Responders ‒ now called Emergency Community Rescue – seven years ago, Michael also volunteers his time to almost anyone who needs it; whether that’s in his own community delivering water bottles when the mains are cut off or delivering groceries in the snow van in bad weather to joining the aid effort following last year’s Turkish earthquake.

A nomination said: “He goes above and beyond for all the local community organisations by providing first aid, and being there to help them raise funds, especially for The Place, which is a child safe hub in Alness.

“Michael has an absolute heart of gold, and never puts himself first. He is always there for everyone and everything. He was even Santa for the local school because he couldn’t see them doing without. Michael deserves recognition for all the hard work and dedication he gives everybody.”

Michael, who is also nominated in the emergency services/armed forces category, felt humbled to be nominated: “Somebody has to step up. It’s just the right thing to do. And I hope because I’ve stepped up, I’ve inspired and encouraged others.”

He added: “I’m humbled by it and surprised. I’m just doing what I’m doing. It’s nice that people have noticed and appreciated it.”

Cairngorm Group is sponsoring the volunteer award.

Cairngorm Group joint managing director, Chris Dowling, said: “Volunteers play a hugely important role in our communities, often providing vital support and services that truly make the lives of others better. So many people would really struggle without the support of volunteers.

“They make a huge difference to communities but are often unsung heroes who generously give up their time for others without looking for thanks or recognition.

“We want to show our support for the many volunteers in our community and we’re delighted to sponsor the volunteer of the year award. We encourage everyone to get behind Highland Heroes and vote for the incredible volunteers that so generously donate their time and energy.”

VOTE for your Highland Heroes NOW below

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