James Gilley, the founder of charity Social Purpose and Time (SPAT) - a running club with a difference - has been recognised by Prime Minister David Cameron. The 24-year-old from South London set-up SPAT following the death of a homeless friend after a heroin overdose. James (pictured) decided that he wanted to help others in similar situations and, as a keen runner, he decided that keeping fit could have real benefits for vulnerable young people.
James is the recipient of a Point of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Every day someone across the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their achievements.
SPAT now provides running and fitness initiatives to homeless and disadvantaged young people aged 16-24 and James has seen how running helps address underlying issues and turnaround harmful lifestyles into healthier ones. People who sign up usually have a range of mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems or issues with anti-social behaviour.
Through running sessions and events SPAT gets its participants to work to targets, which help them help fight addictions and take back control of their lives. The charity provides regular training sessions with coaches as well as nutritional advice. New clothing and equipment is also provided based on an incentive scheme; young people earn kit based on their commitment.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “James has pioneered a fantastic way of helping homeless and disadvantaged young people to overcome drug and alcohol addictions. The 2012 Olympics showed us how sport can leave a powerful lasting legacy. Thanks to people like James that spirit lives on. I am delighted to be recognising James as a Point of Light.”