Inspirational 19-year-old's memory recognised with FA honour

An inspirational teenager killed in a car crash has been recognised with a posthumous award from the Football Association.

Charlotte Hope at the Restart charity where she had previously volunteered
Charlotte Hope at the Restart charity where she had previously volunteered

The FA Leadership Academy's Joel Richards Inspire Award for 2022 was awarded to Shawbury 19-year-old, Charlotte Hope, who died after a crash on the A53 earlier this year.

It was presented to Charlotte's parents, Wing Commander Neil Hope, and Helen Hope, during a ceremony earlier this week.

The award is named in memory of 19-year-old referee Joel Richards, from Wednesbury in the West Midlands, who was killed in the terrorist attacks in Tunisia in 2015.

In a touching and emotional moment Joel's mum, Suzanne, and his brother, Owen, presented the award – handed over in recognition of Charlotte's charity and voluntary work, and her role on Shropshire's FA Youth Council.

Wing Commander Neil Hope and his wife Helen, with the award presented in memory of their daughter, Charlotte.

Charlotte, a former Shawbury St Mary's Primary and Thomas Adams pupil, was in the second year of her training to become a primary school teacher at Edge Hill University when she died.

She had ambitions to become a teacher, and ultimately work in Kenya – a country she had visited while supporting the 'Taking Football to Africa and Beyond' appeal set up by her father and run through the RAF Football Association and RAF Shawbury.

Charlotte had also visited Kenya to volunteer at the charity Restart, which helps rescue children from the streets in the country.

Her aim had been to work as a teacher in the country and continue to volunteer with Restart.

She had also volunteered at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital's League of Friends during the pandemic.

Joel Richard's mum, Suzy, hugs Wing Commander Neil Hope after presenting the award that bears her son's name.

Wg Cdr Hope said he and Charlotte's mother had been hugely proud during what was a "very emotional" presentation.

Speaking as he accepted the award on his daughter's behalf, he said: "As I am sure you are aware we are devastated by the loss of our beautiful daughter. Each day is painful for us. For her to be recognised with this amazing award is a fantastic testament to her caring nature and desire to assist others.

"The fact that this award exists to recognise inspirational young people is unfortunately due to the tragic loss of Joel Richards.

"Joel was obviously an amazing young man and this award is undoubtedly a fitting memory of him.

"I would like to pass our family’s thoughts to Joel’s mum, Suzy, and brother, Owen, who are here today. I know too well that the pain does not lessen as time goes on, you just become more used to it.

"The loss of a child is horrendous and cannot be put into words. I hope that the legacy of this award helps you in some way."

Wing Commander Neil Hope accepts the Joel Richards Inspire Award in memory of his daughter Charlotte. The award was presented by Joel's mum Suzy, and his brother Owen.

Wg Cdr Hope had spoken of his daughter's time with the FA Youth Council, and her love for volunteering.

He said: "Charlotte was an amazing young lady who loved helping others. It was around 2017 that Charlotte first asked if she could accompany me to an event like this one at St George's Park.

"I was presenting awards that day in my role as chair of the FA Development Committee. Charlotte was amazed at the work completed by the young people present and spent time chatting with many of them.

"This grew into an interest in her getting involved in the youth council."

He added: "Through Dave Simpson, as the chair of Shropshire FA, we organised for Charlotte to meet the Shropshire FA Youth Council, resulting in her joining shortly afterwards. Although she only spent around 20 months there – due to impending A-levels – she thoroughly enjoyed the meetings and various events. It undoubtedly helped her anxiety of meeting people for the first time, her organisation and her leadership skills.

"Charlotte helped me with the RAF Taking Football to Africa and Beyond charitable appeal from a very young age. She learned to love sorting kit and filling boxes until she actually really enjoyed it.

"She was fortunate to have visited Kenya on delivery trips on two occasions and then she announced she was going to go and volunteer at the Restart Centre in Gilgil in the summer of 2019. She spent a month there and fell in love with the centre, the work it does, and the children it helps.

Wing Commander Neil Hope speaking after accepting the Joel Richards Inspire Award in memory of his daughter, Charlotte.

The centre homes abused and abandoned street children and it is truly a wonderful place. Charlotte’s intent was to get her teaching degree and then teach in Kenya at an international school which would allow her to continue her volunteering at Restart."

Wg Cdr Hope also revealed that the fundraising efforts in Charlotte's memory were now approaching £20,000.

He said: "We are hoping to complete a small legacy for Charlotte in fundraising for the children at Restart. The monies raised will put the children Charlotte loved through school and hopefully university.

"To date the JustGiving page set up following Charlotte's tragic loss sits just under £20,000."

Wg Cdr Hope added: "I would also like to pass my heartfelt thanks to those who made this possible, especially Holly Davies, Selena Creighton and Dave Simpson.

He continued: "Finally, I would like to congratulate all the award winners here today. Please continue to volunteer and contribute to making our world a better place.

"Thank you once again for this amazing recognition of Charlotte. She is terribly missed but will never be forgotten."

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News