Founder of Suffolk young people’s movement awarded MBE
Tony Gearing, who runs a befriending scheme at a care home in Sudbury, has been made a Member of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Tony is founder of Suffolk Young People of the Year, which he expanded throughout the UK and Scotland.
The movement became known as Yopey – and its awards are Oscars for young people who give to others.
Since 2005, he has set up 10 such befriending schemes, including one between Ormiston Sudbury Academy and Thomas Gainsborough School with Catchpole Court care home in Sudbury, where his mother is a resident having had a stroke.
Young people are recruited from schools to volunteer to visit lonely elderly people, many of them with dementia, in care homes.
Tony, whose aim is to change the unfair negative image of young people into a positive one, said: “I haven’t achieved this alone. This MBE is for all the young people who have taken part in Yopeys, whether or not they went on to be shortlisted for one of our awards ceremonies. They are all winners.”
He added: “It is also for all the friends I roped in to help, including fellow Round Table members who helped me start Yopey, and for my wife Jo, who keeps my nose to the grindstone and gives me some of my best ideas.”
William Kendall, who was High Sheriff of Suffolk for 2016 to 17, and visited the Sudbury scheme, said: “I was so impressed by the genuinely warm relationships the young people had developed with their elderly new friends.
“Tony is to be congratulated on his honour. I know how much energy and dedication he has put into this impressive scheme over the years. He should be very proud that his work has been highlighted.”
Tony, from Stradishall, gets the Queen’s honour for services to young people in the UK.