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Highland Heroes: Vote for your Charitable Organisation of the Year

By Leah Williamson

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Organisations recognised for their work in helping those when they most need it.
Organisations recognised for their work in helping those when they most need it.

Highland and Islands Blood Bikes

WHEN Ross Sharp realised there was a great need for blood bikes to transport blood samples, medication and other supplies in the Highlands and Islands, he decided to do something about it!

He organised the first meeting of the Highland and Islands Blood Bikes (HAIBB) in 2019 and when Covid hit, it wasn’t going to stop the charity.

The group became operational on March 23, 2020. HAIBB transported Covid test kits and collected Covid samples wherever needed. They also transported blood samples, spinal fluid samples and other items covering over 54 different locations.

A nomination said: “Within 10 months they have covered 103,547 miles in all weathers and at no charge to the NHS. Everything is done through fundraising.”

In 2022, HAIBB made 1563 deliveries and covered 119,617 miles.

Ross, from Alness, previously raised funds for Aberdeen’s NERVS (North East Rider Volunteers Scotland) but was unable to ride for them due to the location. When he mooted the idea of HAIBB he was encouraged to go for it.

Today, he is one of a 100-plus team of HAIBB riders and controllers and they now have six bikes, a van and a car.

Ross, pictured with Inverness Central councillor, Bet McAllister, was delighted HAIBB has been shortlisted: “There’s a lot of good charities in the Highlands and Islands so it was the last thing I expected.”

Vote here

James Support Group

LOSING a loved one by suicide has a devastating impact unlike any other bereavement but finding support to help cope with a loss or suicidal thoughts is hard, especially in the often remote communities throughout the Highlands.

When Patrick and Wendy Mullery, from Cromarty, lost their 28-year-old son James in 2017, they reached out for help but found none in the local area. So, they set up James Support Group.

The group has helped hundreds of people, bringing those who have been bereaved together with those having suicidal thoughts and are struggling with their mental health.

In April, the Inverness group will have been running for five years and there are now groups in Dingwall, Invergordon, Thurso, Aviemore, Nairn and Elgin. There are monthly meetings in each location, one-to-one support at a meeting or at home, and a 24/7 helpline.

James Support Group also runs Sport Support, visiting various sports clubs to talk about positive mental health.

A nomination said: “It is a small charity, and does not have the funding, sponsorship or media profile that other charities do. Despite this, the group works tirelessly, and is dependent on donations. This couple are true Highland heroes.”

Patrick added: “It’s a beautiful thing to see a group come together. They are not only helping another person but also helping themselves.”

Vote here

Befrienders Highland

BEFRIENDERS Highland is marking its 30th anniversary this year having spent three decades supporting people managing all types of mental health issues, from feeling lonely to those challenged with depression, anxiety and memory loss.

And the need for support from its 150 volunteers continues to increase every year.

A nomination said: “The work they do is hidden and rarely talked about because admitting you are lonely or have mental ill health both carry social stigma. All across Highland, every day of every week, someone gets a visit, call, letter or email from a trained volunteer – a gesture of support.”

To mark the 30th anniversary there will be a number of special fundraising events including the 30 for 30 campaign, where fundraisers can do 30 things or spend 30 days doing an activity or challenge.

One brave soul, Ruth Webster, was doing 30 dooks by wild swimming or in an immersion tank during January, Keith Walker completed three 10k runs while executive director, Susan White, has undertaken a crochet challenge.

In April, there is a 30km run, starting and ending at Dochgarroch, where participants can run, jog, walk or form a relay team to complete the route.

Susan was delighted the charity had been shortlisted: “We support people who are lonely and they don’t have a lot of people to tell about the difference we make in their lives.”

Vote here

Words from the category sponsor: W M Donald director, Elaine Donald, said: “Charities are such an important part of every community and make a real difference to the lives of the people they support – many people simply could not manage without them.

“We’re proud to support Highland Heroes and sponsor the charitable organisation of the year award which will, in our small way, say thank you to all the charities that work so tirelessly for their communities and have made such a difference to the lives of others.”

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