Written by on 26th July 2023

A Ferndale man who opens doors for adults with a learning disability into nature, environment and heritage is in line for recognition after being nominated in the ‘outstanding individuals’ section of the 2023 National Lottery Awards.The National Lottery Awards are the annual celebration of the ordinary individuals and organisations who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.Lee Jones, the Coordinator of the National Lottery Heritage fund supported Stepping Out Into Nature project run by RCT People First, has been shortlisted in the Environment category in the outstanding individual’s section of this year’s Awards. Lee from Ferndale, Rhondda Cynon Taff, has been nominated for his unwavering endeavours in opening doors for adults with a learning disability and the wider community to engage with nature, the environment and heritage on their doorstep.  This year, 3,780 people and projects throughout the UK were nominated for the National Lottery Awards in recognition of their unwavering efforts to improve their community. After a panel sifted through the thousands of nominations, Lee is now one of only five individuals across the UK shortlisted in the Environment category, waiting to see if he will be crowned outstanding UK individual in his group.As the Coordinator, Lee delivers weekly sessions across Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr Tydfil, and Blaenau Gwent which provides participants the opportunity to learn about their history and culture, climate change and its impact on our world, as well as fascinating facts and insights into the natural environment.In the project’s first phase, Lee and his team ran 93 activity days, co-produced with members, engaging 107 people in their inspirational work over 15 months. Participants learn about their local heritage and environment in a fun and accessible way, acquiring skills in everything from woodland management and potting plants. Visits to historic and cultural sites throughout Wales are also arranged which provide insight into aspects of Welsh culture and heritage many have never experienced before.Thrilled to be nominated, Lee said:

“I’m delighted to be nominated and I truly wasn’t expecting this at all. I would like to give a big shout out to all the team and the volunteers who work so hard – it simply wouldn’t be possible without them. The project is member-led and I’m really glad the hard work of everyone involved is being recognised with this nomination.”

During the summer, a panel made up of representatives of The National Lottery and partners from across the UK will decide the winners in each of the individual categories. Winners will be revealed in the Autumn and will receive a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy. 

Jonathan Tuchner, from The National Lottery, said:

The National Lottery Awards honour those who have stepped up and have gone the extra mile to make a difference in their communities, especially during these challenging times.Thanks to National Lottery players and the £30 million raised each week for good causes, thousands of individuals throughout the UK, like Lee, have been making an incredible difference in their areas, and this is our chance to highlight and celebrate the exceptional work of these selfless local heroes.” The outstanding individual’s section of this year’s National Lottery Awards honour unsung heroes in the following categories:

·                 Culture, Arts & Film 

·                 Heritage 

·                 Sport 

·                 Community/Charity 

·                 Environment

·                 Young Hero Award (for someone under the age of 25)

·                 Special Achievement

In addition to the outstanding individual’s category, an online public vote will be held this year to find The National Lottery’ UK Project of the Year. These nominees will be whittled down to 16 finalists, with a UK-wide public vote in September deciding the winner.  

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