Down's Syndrome charity founder wins Britain's Best Volunteer award

Down's Syndrome charity founder wins Britain's Best Volunteer 2014

Emma Hall, founder and volunteer at Stepping Stones DS support group, which operates across Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey, has been announced as the winner of Britain’s Best Volunteer award.

The award, a partnership between Markel UK, the specialist charity insurer and Small Charities Coalition, the support organisation for small charities, recognises those who volunteer their time to help small, local charities, community groups and not-for-profit organisations.

Emma faced stiff competition from over 700 nominations for charity workers across Britain, from Cornwall to Aberdeenshire. She was put through to the final alongside four other remarkable volunteers by award judges Alex Swallow, Chief Executive of Small Charities Coalition, Andy Partington, Director of Markel UK and Michael Scott, Investing in Volunteers Manager, NCVO.After a closely fought public vote Emma received the most votes and was presented with a £1,250 donation to Stepping Stones DS, as well as a personal prize of a holiday voucher worth £1,000.

Emma, from Fleet in Hampshire, co-founded the local support group after her daughter Isla was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. Seven years on, the group now supports over 100 families with children of all ages in the local area. The services on offer range from emotional support for parents to days out for the whole family, including horse riding and drama activities for the children.

Emma has also used the expertise gained in setting up Stepping Stones DS to help new, similar groups in the area to thrive, which has widened the support network for numerous families.

On hearing she had won the award, Emma said “It is wonderful to be recognised for something that I love doing. We have the most amazing team at Stepping Stones DS, who help to make it a wonderful group to be part of. I like to keep busy and once I gave up work, volunteering was a way to get out and meet new people whilst also having lots of fun. I have made such great friends along the way, and hopefully our work together for Stepping Stones DS has made a difference in the local community.”

Emma added that the £1,250 donation will be put towards a new fund intended to secure permanent premises for the charity.

The four runner up finalists, who each receive £250 for a charity of their choice and a personal prize of an iPad mini, are:

  • Catherine MacLennan, volunteer for the Miscarriage Association and Heartlands Miscarriage Support Group in Birmingham
  • Roger Pratten, who volunteers his driving skills to the Northampton Volunteer Car Scheme
  • John Crawley, who volunteers in the kitchen at St Petrock’s, Exeter
  • John Shannon, a volunteer at Carers’ Time Off, part of the Harrogate Easier Living Project

Alex Swallow, Chief Executive of Small Charities Coalition, added his comment to the award result:

‘Emma has come through a vast number of deserving volunteers to win the award and her achievements speak for themselves. Her efforts in setting up Stepping Stones DS have provided invaluable support for families of children with Down’s syndrome throughout Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey.’

Andy Partington, Director of Markel UK added: ‘Emma and all of the nominees involved in the award are an amazing demonstration of hard working individuals providing much needed support to the wider community. We’re delighted the award has given so many people the opportunity to sing the praises of their local volunteering heroes.’

To find out more about the volunteering achievements of Emma and the runner up finalists, visit

The Stepping Stones DS support group with members of the charity stood in a play area smiling with a cheque of £1250 from Markel Direct and the Small Charities Coalition.


Charity insurance from £3 a month