KATHLEEN SHELDON – Volunteer of the Year 2015




As a young mum Kathy Sheldon undertook her ASA Swimming Teacher qualification at Livingston Road Baths in Coventry, determining it would be a role that she could manage alongside family and foster care commitments.  She noticed a group of swimmers who all had some form of disability in the water and asked about some of the teaching methods being used.

That was in 1968 and from that day Kathy has volunteered with the Phoenix Swimming Club for Disabled People.

Whilst managing a career as a schools swimming teacher, fostering a wonderful group of ‘extended family’ and caring for her own family through personal tragedy, we can count on seeing her every Saturday and is always there behind the scenes.


The dedication and great hearted service of Mrs Kathleen Sheldon as a swimming instructor, mentor, foster carer and invaluable support to members of the wider community for over 45 years is to be much admired.


The level of support Kath offers not only ‘her’ swimmers but also extends to volunteers, parents and carers of the members both in and out of the water is incalculable. She unstintingly shares her vast experience, knowledge and a seemingly bottomless fount of helpful hints & tips with great humour, patience and empathy, tempered by discipline, firmness and focussed encouragement.  Kath’s further training and experience in aquatic exercise is put to good use for many of our members, enabling a freedom they may not otherwise experience on land and making a significant difference to their health, stamina and wellbeing.  Generations of swimmers have benefitted from the increased mobility, health benefits and fun of being gently chided into realising their potential.  The club estimates Kath has taught possibly 5-600 people with disabilities to swim in her 47 years; and over 22,000 in her day job. Until very recently Kath ensured she had an up to date lifesaving award, having passed the Bronze Medallion or NPLQ every year.  Aged 70 she decided that a younger generation could take over the club lifeguard cover, however at 74 she still maintains the necessary level of fitness and is an inspirational role model to all the volunteers.


Kathy is passionate about ensuring this dedicated club offers a welcoming, safe and relaxed environment in which to enjoy water based exercise and fun activities which is undoubtedly life enhancing for disabled people and their families and carer.


Many people are immensely grateful for Kath’s support in mentoring and providing unstinting support and encouragement to progress into a career in swimming teaching and coaching.  Her passion and enthusiasm for getting all abilities swimming has been instrumental many taking the opportunity to get back in the water and then gain instructor qualifications after acquiring a disability.


With Paralympics and Special Olympics medallists amongst her former pupils, the club acknowledged the impact of Kathy amongst the unsung cadre of amazing teachers and volunteers in the club’s history. It was apparent that the friendship, support and camaraderie of the Phoenix club has an immense positive influence on people experiencing adverse circumstances, and has created an ongoing legacy by giving generations of  disabled people a level of confidence and stamina to pursue rich and fulfilling lives.


Kath has been the bedrock of the coterie of skilled and dedicated officials, helpers and teachers that have enabled the Phoenix club to continue past its 60th year and exemplify community voluntary service at its very best.

It would be fitting that her unstinting service to generations of disabled and young people over five decades be noted at a national level to both acknowledge her selfless dedication and inspire others to future effort in service of people with disabilities and the wider community.