Journalist Janette Sykes has been honoured after 35 years of work for a group which gives disabled people a new perspective on life through a shared passion for horse-riding.

Sixty-four-year-old Janette has been awarded the Pat Bishop Trophy for Volunteer of the Year by the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) North Midlands region.

Volunteer of the Year, Janette Sykes (left) with Jane Corrall

As well as using skills honed in a long and successful career in newspapers, magazines and public relations to promote riding for the disabled, Janette has worked week-in, week-out behind the scenes across north Derbyshire.

Riding can give a completely new perspective on life for the disabled, giving them freedom to do things they could not do in a wheelchair and see the world from a higher vantage point, said Jane Corrall, Leicester County RDA Chair who presented the award at Buxton Riding School.

“It’s a richly deserved award for somebody who has gone over and beyond what many volunteers are able to do.”

It also helps in physiotherapy and provides another social dimension as riders make new friends, said Jane, who added: “It just hugely enriches life,”

Janette was nominated by Helen Atkin Group Buxton RDA Chairman Janine Frost, who said: “Janette is one of our Trustees, our PR person, Countryside Challenge Co-ordinator and a volunteer who helps with sessions every week.

“Janette works quietly and assiduously behind the scenes, making sure that the work of our Group gets really positive publicity.

“In addition, she works so hard to organise our Countryside Challenge every year and she put all our entries together for the Virtual Countryside Challenge this year, roping in her husband, former BBC TV journalist Colin, to professionally film us.

“She turns up without fail week in week out. She has recently had a health issue and her first thoughts were about letting down a rider whom she leads every week. She is great.”

Janette first became a volunteer with the Riding for the Disabled Association 35 years ago when she lived in Chesterfield, volunteering with groups at Bolsover and Holmesfield, which sadly no longer exist. She joined Helen Atkin Group Buxton RDA when she moved to Buxton in 1989.

A rider since she was 11, Janette has always loved horses, and volunteering with RDA gives her the opportunity to share her enthusiasm for all things equine with other people.

She finds it extremely rewarding to watch both riders and her fellow volunteers develop and extend their physical and communication skills in a community-focused, caring environment – especially when they achieve much more than they think they can.

Janette was delighted by the award, not just on her own account, but on behalf of all the volunteers, Trustees, instructors, riders, schools, parents, carers and everyone at Buxton Riding School who help to make Helen Atkin Group Buxton RDA such a huge and enduring success.

“I’m very honoured and proud to be part of such a dedicated, hard-working and supportive team,” she said.

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