Amazing individuals and organisations contributing to the fabric of the Sunshine Coast are often referred to as ‘the backbone of the community’.
These local champions go about their days, ultimately making a significant contribution to society, but never seeking recognition or credit for their work.
They make a difference in the sectors of aged care, disability support, health, wellness, leadership, performing arts and education, just to name a few, and their impact can be far reaching.
Hoping to shine a light on their amazing work, the recent Sunshine Coast Community Awards celebrated some of the incredible efforts from across the region, honouring finalists and winners in a range of categories.
Some of this year’s community heroes who were recognised included Grab Life by the Balls founder Same Parker, Suncoast Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Inc, Beerwah Dance Company, EndED’s Mark Forbes and Gateway Care.
Sunshine Coast Community Awards founder Danielle Trask says the annual awards aim to recognise, encourage, acknowledge and pay tribute to individuals, organisations, volunteers, charities, businesses and groups making significant contributions to our regional community.
“The main premise behind founding these awards was to recognise and reward the amazing work our community heroes across the Sunshine Coast do on a regular basis,” she says.
“We have so much community spirit within our region and to bring people together to celebrate it makes for a room of inspiring, kind-hearted and selfless individuals.
“It is amazing and quite humbling to be a part of.”
Ms Trask says awards such as these are vital in helping to spread awareness of what these individuals and organising do behind the scenes – efforts many in the community may be unaware of.
“The awards support their growth and the growth of the Sunshine Coast as a whole by adding a spotlight and giving each and every nominee, finalist or winner the recognition they deserve,” she says.
“Taking into consideration that many of our nominees and finalists support the most vulnerable in our society, it is extremely important to get the message out there.
“Speaking honestly, that is how it all came about. I was searching for some support for one of my own children and realised the number of services and supports we have on the Sunshine Coast, and so many I was personally unaware of. It is about supporting everyone – large or small – and giving them the opportunity to network, collaborate and grow.
“Awareness, accessibility and support, in some cases, can be life changing and life saving.”
Brendan Neil was named the 2023 Individual of the Year for his tireless work in the charity space to help raise awareness and funds for special schools around the region.
For 15 years, the Kings Beach local has been involved in the Island Charity Swim: an annual 10-kilometre ocean swim from Mudjimba that supports these local students.
In April this year, he also successfully completed a 24-hour solo ocean swim from Noosa Main Beach. He raised more than $10,000 for special schools at Currimundi, Nambour and Palmview.
“Since 2018, I have taken on a series of challenging, personal, solo endeavours that have not only tested my abilities but also enabled me to make a positive impact on our community,” Mr Neil says.
“These challenges have grown progressively tougher, requiring not only personal dedication and training but also the invaluable support of an expanding network of sponsors, logistics teams
“Through these endeavours, I have been able to raise awareness for the kids and families in our community, resulting in increased participation, fundraising, and overall support for various
“My ultimate mission is to foster a stronger sense of connection between our community and these kids and families.
“The Island Charity Event has been instrumental in achieving this goal, as it helps break down barriers of isolation and fosters inclusivity within our community.”
As a committee member for the swim, Mr Neil has been actively working to secure grants to help improve the overall inclusion of students and their families at community events.
“This year, my efforts in grant applications bore fruit, as I successfully secured three grants to support the ‘festival’ finish line at Mooloolaba Surf Club,” he says. “This initiative, driven by the schools’ P & C (Associations), has been a long-standing goal of mine, aiming to include more kids and families in fun beach activities while they wait for swimmers to complete their challenging journey.
“The electrifying atmosphere of the festival not only educated the general public about our event but also shone a light on the kids and families we aim to support.
“Looking forward, I am committed to expanding this aspect of the event, working closely with members of the school community to create more opportunities for meaningful connections between able-bodied individuals and the kids we champion.”
For more on the awards, visit sunshinecoastcommunityawards.com.au.
The Sunshine Coast Community Awards winners
Julie Bresolin – Excellence in Aged Care Award.
Sam Parker – CommunityLeadership Award
Suncoast Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Inc – Best Disability Service Recreational or Sporting Program
Neurodivergent Empowered –
Buddy Up Australia (Sunshine Coast Chapter) – Best Small Sunshine Coast Group or Program of the Year
Beerwah Dance Company – Performing Arts Award
Henzells Real Estate – Social Commitment Award
Mark Forbes – Lifetime Achievement Award
Brendon Neil – Individual of the Year
Gateway Care – Best Sunshine Coast Community Service or Organisation of the Year Award
Breanna Metcalfe – Emerging Leader Award
Raine Barr – Emerging Leader Award
Finley Coll – Emerging Leader Award.