Volunteer award marks long service at RDA

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Service recognised . . . Longtime RDA Timaru volunteer Allan Thomson (86) won the runner-up volunteer of the year award at the national Riding for the Disabled conference in May and was presented with his award last week. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

A long-standing Timaru Riding for the Disabled volunteer has been recognised for his service in the organisation’s national awards.

Allan Thomson won the runner-up Volunteer of the Year award at the RDA’s national training seminar in Wellington in late May and was awarded with his surprise prize last week.

The 86-year-old has been volunteering with the Timaru branch of the national organisation, which provides therapeutic and recreational horse riding to people with disabilities, since 1998.

Fellow volunteer Emma Reynolds said Mr Thomson’s volunteer work included leading one of the riders – who had been coming to the RDA for almost as long as Mr Thompson – on Wednesday mornings, picking up horse manure, keeping the grass mown, volunteering for fundraisers and building or repairing fences.

“So many little things done around the place, he’s done.”

The long-time volunteer had a designated “Allan’s seat” in the morning tea room, was always the first to arrive and was “truly .. a great ambassador for RDA”, the nomination read.

Mrs Reynolds said she had pitched the idea of entering Mr Thomson in the awards to Timaru president Wendy Marr after receiving an email asking for nominations.

She said entering Mr Thomson in the awards had been difficult as they were trying to keep any nomination a surprise but they had to include a few photos in the entry.

“Trying to get photos of him . . . without telling him what we’re doing [was hard].”

The presentation of the runner-up award had been delayed by several weeks after weather had forced the cancellation of several RDA sessions.

But Mr Thomson had been presented with his award last Wednesday at a celebratory morning tea attended by several other volunteers, which was a complete surprise, especially as the national organisation rarely gave out runner-up awards, Mrs Reynolds said.