For the last decade Tony Gearing has been working tirelessly to inspire and recognise youngsters’ excellence in Hertfordshire.
And the former journalist has received his just desserts, after being made an MBE in this year’s Birthday Honours, for services to young people in the UK.
Mr Gearing started the Young People of the Year awards (YOPEYs) in 2005 in his native Royston, with parallel awards in Hemel Hempstead and Bedfordshire.
Since then the YOPEYs have expanded to all of Herts in 2010 as well another dozen counties across England, plus London and Scotland.
More than 6,000 young people have entered over 60 YOPEY competitions, with more than £130,000 given to young people to invest in their good causes paid for by commercial sponsors and public bodies.
Mr Gearing said: “This MBE is for all the young people who have taken part in YOPEYs, whether or not they went on to be shortlisted for one of our lavish awards ceremonies. They are all winners.
“It is also for all the friends I roped in to help and for my wife Jo who keeps my nose to the grindstone and gives me some of my best ideas.”
Mr Gearing is now concentrating on bringing different generations together by developing ‘YOPEY Befrienders’, where young people are recruited from schools to volunteer to visit lonely elderly people in care homes, many of them with dementia.
Dione Verulam, Lord- Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, said: “Tony Gearing is enthusiastic and tenacious. He has had a vision of a way to help young people and with dogged determination he has delivered YOPEY year after year.
“He finds the sponsorship and he aims for a glamorous final evening which is much appreciated by the young award winners. He is able to inspire the young with confidence and it is splendid to witness the high standard they achieve as a result of his inspiration.”
Mr Gearing is now looking for other Herts care homes that would like to make a donation to the YOPEY charity in return for having a YOPEY Befriender scheme. He is also interested in hearing from Herts businesses that would like to sponsor a Herts Young People of the Year. The campaign can be named after sponsors and raise their public profile.
To find out more visit www.youngpeopleoftheyear.org