One of the north’s most dedicated sporting mentors has received a prestigious accolade for her efforts.
Kim Neill has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award from High Life Highland and Sportscotland for her prodigious coaching and volunteering work.
Mrs Neill has been involved in cricket in the region since moving to Nairn in 2007. Her first group of players included her sons, Steven and Adrian, the latter of whom played for Aberdeenshire and was a member of the Scotland squad which has recently qualified for the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia next year.
However, Mrs Neill has done a lot more than just work in any one sphere. She has concentrated on cricket for people with disabilities, including softball and table varieties, and these are available to children who would otherwise be unable to participate in team sports.
She said: “After attending a Tri-Nations tournament last year for cricketers with disabilities, I recognised the need for opportunities in the North.
“After starting out with three schools involved, there are now 15 taking part and they stretch all the way from Keith to Helmsdale.
“Highland schools are involved in the initiative, including Nairn Academy, Drummond School in Inverness, St Clements in Dingwall, St Duthus in Tain, Culloden Academy and Kilchuimen in Fort Augustus.”
Mrs Neill has been the driving force behind the Cricket4All programme, which has been devised in conjunction with a range of different organisations, including Cricket Scotland, Disability Highlands, Disability Moray, Highland Council and Nairn CCC.
The new scheme has led to the number of youngsters taking part increasing from 12 to more than 130, with teachers recognising the value of the programme in encouraging greater participation and inclusivity among boys and girls.
Mrs Neill is also one of the founder members of the Highland and Moray Netball League and, under her leadership as coach, the combined team won the Scottish Cup Evelyn Beattie quaich. She still does some coaching amid her busy schedule.
She said: “I want to thank those who nominated me for the award and it has been a great honour to be given this accolade.
“We offer a table cricket community programme to care homes in the areas, which offers an enjoyable outing for people once a month.
“They enjoy the interaction with other folk from different care homes, as well as making new friends.
“This is all about providing sport for all and I’m delighted with the results.”