A Portaferry-based Judo Project that has been instrumental in helping young children play sport and integrate together in a positive, safe environment, has been named Project of the Year at the Sport Northern Ireland’s 2019 SportMaker Awards.

The Red Belt Challenge is a six week free Judo programme run by Peggy Magee in partnership with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership and the Irish Judo Association.

Following the completion of her Level 1 Judo Coaching Award, Peggy opened the doors of Portaferry School of Judo in January 2018, with the view to bringing a positive sporting outlet to the area. After a Community Police Officer heard of the good efforts at the Club, the Red Belt Challenge initiative was established, primarily aimed at children who were aged five years and above, with confidence or behavioural issues or simply feeling like they didn’t fit in.

Participating children receive a free Judo suit, transport to the club from the surrounding area and an option to join the Portaferry School of Judo, when they have completed the programme. Following the success of the original programme and with increased support from Ards and North Down Borough Council, a twenty week Red Belt Challenge is now underway, with the inclusion of 11 – 17 year olds. Plans have also been approved for a Borough-wide roll-out.

Mark Montgomery, a fellow judo coach and previous SportMaker winner who nominated the Red Challenge for the award, said:

“Sport truly changes lives, and the unique work of this project highlights how sport has the power to put a smile on children’s faces and make a positive changes to their futures.”

The Red Belt Challenge was named as Project of the Year at Sport NI’s 2019 SportMaker Awards, which recognises the contribution of the local sporting working – the coaches, officials, volunteers and projects making a difference in helping local people enjoy, engage and benefit from the power of sport.

The Award was presented to the project lead, Peggy Magee, by Sport NI Coaching and Club Development Consultant David Smyth at a recent class.

Receiving the award, Peggy said:

“The Red Belt Challenge project has been a fantastic opportunity for the Ards Penninula area, and has been only possible by the assistance of working in partnership with key stakeholders. Its fantastic to see the results that Judo has on the children’s and the changes I see every week. I am overwhelmed and so proud.”

Congratulating Red Belt Challenge on their SportMaker award and nomination for the UK Coaching Awards, Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown added:

“It is a tremendous honour to present the 2019 SportMaker Project of the Year Award to the Red Belt Challenge Project. The SportMaker Awards are all about shining a light on the people who make sport happen day in, day out across Northern Ireland, and the work being delivered by this particular project is truly inspiring. Sport NI believes passionately that sport has the power to enhance the lives of everyone and the impact of the work of all involved in the Red Belt Challenge project is testament to that.”

“Sport has a strong and positive role to play in developing children and their wellbeing. Children involved in this project will surely benefit and develop a life long partnership in sport.Being active is good for both our physical and mental health, and being involved in team activites can create social bonds and friendships.“

“On behalf of Sport NI, I wish them continued success with this project and the best of luck in the future.”

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