Royal recognition for volunteer who's the beating heart of Ripon City AFC

Unsung hero Geoff Kendall, in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
Unsung hero Geoff Kendall, in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

A much-admired and respected stalwart of Ripon City AFC has received royal recognition for his extraordinary contribution, having devoted more than 30 years of voluntary service to the community-minded club.

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Geoff Kendall, who was deservingly presented with Ripon's 'unsung hero' award at the Harrogate and District Volunteering Oscars last year, was invited to attend one of the Queen's garden parties at Buckingham Palace, as a special thank you for all that he does as the groundsman for Mallorie Park - where he's been an ambassador and role model for players, supporters and everybody he works alongside.

A day to remember: Geoff at Wembley Stadium.

A day to remember: Geoff at Wembley Stadium.

Ripon City AFC's treasurer Gary Camplejohn accompanied Geoff to the palace to show his support - he said he doesn't know what the club would do without Geoff, who always goes above and beyond to carry out his duties with a smile on his face, and has clocked up thousands upon thousands of volunteering hours over the last three decades.

Gary said: "Geoff's dedication and effort that he puts in breeds respect. His actions are inspiring. We depend on him so much for looking after the club's facilities - volunteers like him are very hard to come by.

"From our perspective, we don't have a huge amount of ways of showing our appreciation for Geoff, so we jumped at this chance and wanted to support him."

Their experience at the palace was an unforgettable one - Geoff and Gary mingled with inspirational volunteers from across the country, and shared in the excitement of standing in the grand grounds with Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess Anne.

First class travel for a first class volunteer: Geoff Kendall.

First class travel for a first class volunteer: Geoff Kendall.

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Gary said: "Geoff had a fantastic day - the sun was shining, and just seeing the smile on his face and seeing him enjoy himself away from the football club was lovely."

And on top of this royal engagement, Geoff was given a guided tour of Wembley Stadium, thanks to the support of the West Riding FA.

The VIP treatment extended to Geoff and Gary's train travel, too - Grand Central laid on First Class tickets for the pair.

Praising Geoff for all of his volunteering efforts, Grand Central's chief operating officer, Sean English, said: "This is really great recognition for someone who's done sterling voluntary work.

"Grand Central is always very keen to support those who strengthen our local communities and, naturally, we were delighted to help him on his journey to Buckingham Palace. We hope Geoff continues the good work he's been honoured for."

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Geoff's original nomination form for the Harrogate and District Volunteering Oscars said: "Geoff takes great pride in Mallorie Park, and even with little or no budget he manages to keep the ground in tip top condition, and one of the best in the local area.

"We would like to volunteer Geoff for a volunteer award, as without him football in Ripon would not have been the same."

Geoff does four hours of volunteering every day, getting up early in the morning to ensure that the grounds are always in their best condition - an impressive commitment by anyone's standards, but even more so when you consider the longevity of this service, spanning 30 years.