27 March 2024

Martin Graham wins Luke Gilbert Volunteer of the Year Award

Dedicated, generous, and always ready to go above and beyond for young people - Martin Graham is the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust's 2023 Volunteer of the Year.

Martin Graham, centre, being presented the award by Sue Morgan MBE and Frank Fletcher, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust's CEO, at the Birmingham training day

Martin received the Luke Gilbert Volunteer of the Year award at our annual Volunteer and Skipper Training Conference in Birmingham on Saturday (23 March), after being recognised for his 'cool, calm manner' on trips, his willingness to travel far and wide to accompany young people, and even his baking on board!

He was inspired to become a volunteer after being supported himself when he was younger. In 2014, he sailed from Largs after treatment for sarcoma in his leg.

After benefitting from two more sailing adventures in 2015 and 2017 from the Isle of Wight, he became a volunteer and now, as well as joining young people on the water, he also dedicates his time to travelling with them to ensure they get to our trip locations and back home safely.

"If I can do anything to help on that journey, I absolutely will"

Speaking about his favourite part of volunteering, Martin said: “I really love the difference it makes to young people. Those at the charity who know me know I was supported by the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust myself as a young person, a good ten years ago. I know first-hand the impact that it has.”

He was commended for his dedication to getting young people to the location of trips, despite not always being able to attend the adventures himself. This once involved a flight from Belfast to Birmingham with a young person, then to the south of Wales where he accompanied three more young people, followed by an onward journey to the Isle of Wight to join a separate sailing trip, all in one day.

He emphasised the importance of this part of volunteering at the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust: “There may be cases where if I don’t travel with young people, they won’t be able to go on the trip and get the benefit of meeting others like them who have gone through the same thing. If I can do anything to help on that journey, I absolutely will.

“There have been several occasions where I’ve brought young people from across the country to their trip and picked them up again at the end of the week, having not joined them myself. Which is great in some ways because you get to see the difference it makes to them in the space of a week.”

"The very essence of dedication and generosity"

Martin sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. He is wearing a blue lifejacket over a red t-shirt, it is a nice sunny day and he's wearing sunglasses, standing just beneath the yacht's main sail.

Martin was nominated for the award by the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust community, which includes the young people we support, other volunteers, and our staff team.

One nomination said: “He was such an incredible volunteer this year, going above and beyond. I was astounded by his ability to step in last minute with mammoth travel responsibilities and to join a trip, and he did it all with a smile on his face and his cool, calm manner. I can’t name one thing that makes him stand out as he just does so much for other people. Everyone's best bit at the end of the week was his warm pasties on a damp lunchtime somewhere near Newtown Creek!”

Presenting Martin with the award, Frank Fletcher, our CEO, said: “This year our Volunteer of the Year has exemplified the very essence of dedication and generosity. His unwavering commitment to going above and beyond the call of duty was recognised by all members of the judging panel.

“Martin’s selflessness has made a profound impact, ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to experience our trips. His presence on our boats is led by his genuine care and concern for others. His dedication to our cause has been nothing short of extraordinary, and for that, we are eternally grateful.”

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust’s Luke Gilbert Volunteer of the Year Award was introduced in 2017 in celebration of the Trust’s legendary volunteer. Luke’s incredible personality, sense of humour, enthusiasm, compassion and huge amount of fun made him an inspiration to everyone he met. The annual award winners will have demonstrated all the qualities Luke embodied.