[lead]Frenchay Cricket Club’s Jim Donaldson has revealed he is still in shock after being awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.[/lead]
The 69-year-old has been overwhelmed by messages of congratulations since the news emerged late Friday night although he received official notification of being recognised for his services to cricket in the city – and strict orders to keep it all secret – just over a month ago.
Jim, who has been chairman of the Bristol Youth League since 2000 and a long-time supporter of girls and women’s cricket, said: [blockquote size=”full|half|third|fourth|two-thirds|three-fourths” align=”left|center|right” byline=”Jim Donaldson” rating=”0|1|2|3|4|5″] “It was an utter surprise and a surreal experience when I opened the letter … it felt as if it was happening to someone else.
“It’s a huge honour but I could not have done anything without my wife Sally who has been a massive support as well as lots of people at the club, the youth league and the Gloucestershire Cricket Board.
“You’re always a part of a team and that’s the secret of making whatever you do sustainable.
“I still wonder though ‘why me?’ when there are so many people out there who do so much for so many other sports?” [/blockquote]
A list of just some of Jim’s contributions to cricket over the last quarter of a century or so might help.
He’s in his 24th year on the committee of the Bristol & District League club, and has been Child Welfare Officer since 2005 and first team scorer for 22 summers and counting.
For ten years, Jim was also a youth committee member on the Gloucestershire Cricket Association, the forerunner of today’s Gloucestershire Cricket Board which he has served as the chairman of its Youth League and Performance Development Group for the last ten seasons.
He also set-up the Frenchay Falcons, the county’s only disability club side and has been instrumental in driving the development of the club’s facilities in recent years.
It’s when he begins to talk about his involvement since 2011 with Chance to Shine – a hugely successful national initiative to take cricket back to state schools – and girls cricket that his eyes begin to mist over.
Jim said: “I think back to six years ago, of Georgie Hunt and Molly Bliss … two young girls who had never played cricket before and who had no family connections with the sport until Frenchay took Chance to Shine into local primary schools.
“Well, in February they found themselves on a plane flying to Sri Lanka with the Gloucestershire Under-17 girls’ squad … what a fantastic and wonderful story that is.
“Chance to Shine is the absolute foundation for so much that has been achieved in recent seasons because without it girls cricket, in particular, would not be blossoming in the way it is.”
The success of the Chance to Shine scheme can be clearly seen in Frenchay’s thriving junior set-up, in particular its burgeoning girls’ section which was started by Jim and Sally.
Jim takes most satisfaction from playing a part in helping youngsters realise their potential.
He added: “Cricket should be a social sport and if you’re lucky enough to have, as we do, decent facilities that are safe and secure for families then you should be making the most of them.
“That means giving children an opportunity because otherwise you will never know how far they might go … another exciting example is Natasha Wraith who is in this season’s Western Storm Development squad.
“We might have someone here right now who, in ten years time, could be the Gloucestershire Women’s captain … but if they never receive a chance how can that happen?”
Jim will receive his BEM from the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, the Queen’s representative in the county, later this year while he and Sally are to be invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace next summer.
Jim as also won the 2018 Gloucestershire ECB Coaching Award for Outstanding Achievement forf his work at Frenchay and the Bristol Youth League.
Gloucestershire Cricket Board (GCB) chied executive Steve Silk said Jim thoroughly deserved his recognition.
He said: “He is one of the most deserving people you could meet in cricket. His dedication is incredible and he willingly gives up his time to help boys and girls of all ages to play cricket.
“You can’t mention Jim without also mentioning Sally. What they have achieved and continue to do for youth cricket at Frenchay and across Bristol is truly amazing – they have even turned their front room into what is effectively a cricket office in order to run the Bristol Youth League!
“Without people like them both junior and senior cricket would not be in as strong a position as it finds itself in today.”