After putting a question out on our Facebook page, looking for stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things, we were emailed several times with the name Sarah McGrady and for several reasons.
After a successful career with the Royal Bank of Scotland spanning 20 years, and having three boys, Tom 16, Joe 14 and Sam 12, with her husband Alan, Sarah’s health deteriorated and three years ago she was diagnosed with ME. This affected the family’s life dramatically but with great support from them she has learnt how to manage the illness. By planning in rest periods she can maintain a ‘normality’ in her day-to-day life. That said, she seems to manage to squeeze in a hell of a lot into her week, impressive!
Sarah is treasurer and secretary of Larkfield football club, where her husband runs a team. Up until two seasons ago the club was just for boys football. Sarah felt there was something missing and put a notice up on Facebook to see if there was any interest to set up a girls football team. “A few mums said their girls would be interested, and at our open evening, 20 girls turned up of all different ages.” Sarah added, “Our club offers football for all ages, whereas other clubs tend to limit it to certain age groups. We don’t exclude anyone.” The girls football was set up with the help of Georgia Smith and Sarah’s husband Alan and is going from strength to strength.
Sarah is very passionate and proud when she talks about ‘her girls’ that play football in the club. “Playing football really instils confidence, it helps them come out of themselves in a very positive way. Some parents have told me that their girls look forward to football training all week. The Christmas and birthday lists have changed to being everything football too. Another parent of a girl who was painfully shy has told me that they’ve never seen her smile so much and she’s now a ‘Super Scorer’.”
At Larkfield FC, as well as players, girls are also trained to be referees and coaches, some of whom are going into the league in September along with four teams. Sarah explained that she is taking some of the girls to the Gillingham FC trials and loves the fact that they have the opportunity to progress in this way.
On asking Sarah what plans she had for herself in this role in the future, she said she would like to be involved with the Kent FA for girls football and also speak at schools to encourage girls to get involved. “All of this is voluntary work and it does take a lot of time but I love it and I’m very passionate about it and the difference I’ve seen it make.” Larkfield FC now has 55 girls as members, five have done coaching and two refereeing. Sarah added, “It all started with an idea and I’m very much someone who will try anything and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.” We love that attitude and it’s obviously a great success, well done Sarah!
Sarah also volunteers for the Beanstalk Reading Charity for two afternoons a week at Vigo School. It is aimed at children who have reading difficulties and she gives her time for free and the school pay the charity.
As if this wasn’t enough; along with Sarah Cole and Claire Dobson, Sarah set up the ‘Love Where You Live’ for the Larkfield area. “We organise a meet up every Spring and Autumn where usually between 50 and 100 people turn up and we do a mass litter pick of the area, plant bulbs and generally tidy up. Kids come and help too and they love it. Tracy Crouch, MP, turns up to help at every one.”
The ‘Larkfield Angels’, as they’re known, have won an environment award and the ‘Love Where You Live’ scheme is now in its fourth year. Sarah adds, “The amount of rubbish we collect now compared to the first time is a lot less but this is a good sign that people are more respectful of where they live.”
If you would like to get in touch with Sarah to ask her any questions, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Larkfield FC visit : www.larkfieldfc.com.
Beanstalk Reading Charity are always looking for reading volunteers and if you are interested in helping you can find more information at : www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk