A Tees charity that provides talented local sports stars with vital financial support has vowed to keep reaching into its pockets to help local athletes chase their dreams on the back of donations totalling £75,000.
Teesside Philanthropic Foundation has shared the cash boost between 82 talented local sportspeople over the past three years through its FAST Fund.
The FAST Fund – which stands for Financial Assistance for Sportspeople on Teesside – provides grants to sporting achievers who have the talent but not necessarily the finances to excel in their chosen field.
A whole host of Teesside sports stars have reaped the benefit of FAST Fund cash since it was set up in 2016, including runners, swimmers, boxers, martial artists, wheelchair rugby players, rowers, and tennis and badminton players.
Alisdair Beveridge, of Philanthropic Foundation patrons The Build Directory, said the charity remains happy to help the region’s most promising sporting talent, as a group of FAST Fund recipients gathered for a celebratory photograph at the Cycle Velodrome next to Middlesbrough Sports Village.
Fitness enthusiast Alisdair, who boxed for Middlesbrough club Wellington ABC in his younger days, said: “Teesside has always been – and always will be – a hotbed of sporting talent.
“As a charity we’re only too happy to help give gifted athletes from the region a financial kick in the right direction if they need one as they go for gold in national and international competitions.
“And we remain firmly committed to giving Teesside sportspeople who need a bit of financial help to nudge them in the right direction in future.”
Great Ayton brother and sister Ben and Betty Bergstrand were among the most recent FAST Fund grant winners, having recently starred at the Home Countries International Mountain Running Championships in Ireland.
Ben, 18, won an individual silver medal and led England to team gold, as 15-year-old Betty ran well to claim 19th place overall as the eighth England finisher on her national debut.
The Middlesbrough Mandale siblings’ dad Robin – a former world class mountain and fell runner – said: “I think the FAST Fund is excellent.
“Ben and Betty received £700 between them, which they used to buy things like running shoes and head torches, which are really important when they are out training on dark nights.”
Stockton weightlifter Kelly-Jo Robson finished sixth in her division on her Commonwealth Games debut this summer after receiving a second grant of more than £1,000 from the FAST Fund, and is now set to compete at the World Championships in Turkmenistan from late October.
“Having the FAST Fund support me is massive, because even the supplements I take are more expensive than normal because they have to be Informed Sport approved,” said 30-year-old Kelly-Jo.
“It was amazing to compete at the Commonwealth Games after all of the FAST Fund’s help, and I’m really aiming to win a medal at the next Commonwealth Games now after getting more valuable experience at the World Championships.”
Other recent FAST Fund recipients include athletes Amy Carter and Afoma Ofor, Brazilian jiu jitsu specialists Ben Appleton and Nathaniel Scott, ice hockey player Jacob Hammond, ball hockey player Adam Harrison, GB deaf squad swimmer Grace McNiff, cricketer Aidan Cross, swimmer Lexi Nicholson and wheelchair table tennis player Andrew Green.
Teesside’s three-times Olympic long jumper Chris Tomlinson sits on a committee which delivers the FAST Fund grants, along with athletics coach Rick Betts and Philanthropic Foundation trustees Emma Simkins, Emily Bentley, Harriet Spalding and Lee Bramley.
For further details about the FAST Fund and how to apply for a grant, visit: fastfund.org.uk. The applications deadline for the next tranche of grants is mid-November.
• Pictured (above) Former Olympian Chris Tomlinson and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation patron Alisdair Beveridge gather at Middlesbrough Velodrome with FAST Fund recipients Amy Carter, Afoma Ofor, Ben Appleton, Nathaniel Scott, Jacob Hammond, Adam Harrison, Grace McNiff, Aidan Cross, Lexi Nicholson and Andrew Green.