Ryan Hedges has won the PFA Community Champion Award.
The accolade recognises players all over the country who give the most back to their communities, and Hedges has been a shining example of good community work and its impact on the local people of Barnsley, supporting a range of charitable and community causes.
This not only brings huge enjoyment to participants but also raises the profile of community issues and extends the reach of Barnsley Football Club away from the pitch through Reds in the Community.
Following a superb start to the season for Hedges, with three goals in August against Bristol City, Morecambe and Nottingham Forest, the winger had high hopes for the campaign on the pitch, but he knows he had to complete his duties off it as well.
“We’re in a privileged position as footballers, it is great to be able to give something back to the people in this town,” said Hedges, on his community work. “I’ve now been out to schools, hospitals, the local hospice and of course onto the indoor pitch having a kick-about with the youngsters who attend the soccer camps.”
Over the summer, Hedges was named as ‘Health Ambassador’ for the Reds in the Community programme. This meant he has been tasked with promoting a healthy lifestyle for both the young, and older generation of Reds fans.
“When I was asked to help with the health of others it was something that I was never going to turn down,” continued the winger. “I don’t think people realise that a familiar face giving you some encouragement can really push someone and help them to create their goals.
“I get to train and be around my mates day in day out which helps us in training, so I was happy to give up my time if it helped others.
“The FIT REDS programme that has been going at Oakwell for a while is one I have attended as much as possible. The lads on that course just want to play football and have a laugh, but they also do recognise the serious side of the efforts they are putting in and that’s for a healthier lifestyle. I’ve had some right laughs with them and I hope they all feel the benefit.”
Upon receiving his PFA Community Champion Award Hedges said: “It’s a great honour for me. As a Club, we want to give something back to the community and it’s great to be awarded this. With the public profile we’ve got being a footballer, we love giving something back, especially to the fans who pay to watch us. It’s something I really enjoy.
“It’s really good for the lads to get involved with school visits and soccer schools with the youngsters. We were there once looking up at footballers and when you get to see them it’s something you remember for years. The great turnout of numbers at health initiatives like Walking Football is evident of their impact – I hope it continues.”
John Hudson, PFA director of corporate social responsibility said: "The PFA believes that players who make that extra effort and contribution during the season should be recognised for their support and involvement in the local community. This award will hopefully raise awareness of the great contribution and importance many of our members attach to their roles off the pitch. We would like to offer our congratulations to Ryan for winning the 2017/18 Community Champion Award."
Everyone at Barnsley Football Club is proud of your efforts Ryan, and this award is richly deserved.