Third Sector Excellence Awards 2012: Volunteer of the Year - Joint winners: Alex Williams, Meningitis Trust and Hannah Louise Jones, The Brain Tumour Charity

Awarded to the volunteer who has, over time, shown the greatest commitment and achievement

Alex Williams and Hannah Louise
Alex Williams and Hannah Louise

Alex Williams, Meningitis Trust

Alex Williams, 18, volunteered for the Meningitis Trust for 10 years before he sadly died in August after suffering a stroke.

Williams contracted meningitis at the age of seven and became a wheelchair user and had learning difficulties. He was later bullied at school and was diagnosed with depression.

Despite his problems, Williams started volunteering for the charity at the age of eight and went on to become the face of the charity's campaign Meningitis Changes Futures, appearing in campaign literature and speaking to MPs at the campaign launch.

The teenager, from Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, was also a founding member of the charity's young ambassadors scheme, which raises awareness of meningitis among young adults and adolescents. He organised events, held collections and spoke at family days about his experiences. He also shared his story in the media about the devastating effect that meningitis can have. The charity described Williams, who was chosen to carry the Olympic torch, as "an inspirational role model to all those who have experienced meningitis".

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England and a judge in this category, said: "Alex was clearly an exceptional young man who had overcome extreme hardship and discrimination to channel his energy into social good."

Hannah Louise Jones, The Brain Tumour Charity

Despite being diagnosed with a brain tumour at 15 and undergoing surgery, Hannah Louise Jones poured her energies into her work with The Brain Tumour Charity, an organisation that works to raise awareness of the disease and fund research.

In three years, Jones has helped the charity raise more than £100,000 by holding fundraising events and from the sales of Hannahbanana sweatshirts.

The Cheshire teenager's other efforts include starting a government e-petition on the subject of brain tumours, which secured more than 4,000 signatures. She has also encouraged people to lobby their MPs, put pressure on the government to fund research into brain tumours, and spoke at the House of Commons at the launch of the charity's manifesto.

Jones's fundraising efforts for tumour research are likely to benefit "untold numbers of patients", according to the charity. It says that, despite numerous brain operations and concerns about the health of her mother - who has breast cancer - she has kept focused on her war against brain tumours and always manages to smile. She also had to learn to walk, talk and eat again after an operation induced a stroke.

Award judge Joan Coyle, human resources director at Save the Children, said: "Jones is a role model for others and a great contributor to the charity in terms of fundraising and raising its profile."

JUDGING PANEL

Rosie Chapman,independent charity adviser, Belinda Pratten and Rosie Chapman Associates

Joan Coyle, HR director, Save the Children International

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive, Volunteering England

Joe Irvin, chief executive, Navca

OTHER FINALISTS

- Ken Mason, Crisis

- Cathy Richards, North Devon Hospice

- Claire Lomas, Spinal Research

- Read about the winning entries

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