Community Champions 2017: Martin is a true champion

What makes a Community Champion?

So many people of all ages, all backgrounds, from all walks of life have picked up our awards over the last 10 years, there is no standard answer to that question.

We have honoured young and older people; schoolchildren and pensioners; police officers, firefighters, teachers and nurses.

We have told you stories of incredible bravery and touching humility.

But while our winners are all different, they also have plenty in common, from a desire to help others, to selflessness and kindness by the bucketload.

Above all, they share a passion for this city, and a fierce determination not to let obstacles stand in their way.

Martin Gallacher, the 17-year-old Holyrood Secondary pupil who picked up the South heat Young Award and the overall Young Award at our most recent grand final, in December 2016, sums up exactly what Community Champions is all about.

Despite his own personal heartache and battle with illness, Martin devotes all of his spare time to helping others.

Martin’s mother died when he was 10 and his father lost his battle with cancer just a few years later.

The teenager also suffers from a rare heart condition – called Marsan’s Syndrome – for which he has had heart surgery.

But he doesn’t let any of that hold him back.

“Things are pretty good with me healthwise just now, so I’m fine,” he smiles.

“I’ve had some tough times but what keeps me going is the thought I might be able to make a difference to someone else’s life, no matter what’s going on in my life.”

Martin gets involved in everything in his community.

He is a champion fundraiser for his secondary school and the wider community, banking £3000 at the Youth Philanthropy Initiative for the Dixon Community.

He is kind and compassionate – he runs a regular surgery for the pupils in the school so anyone with worries or suggestions on how to improve things for others can come and chat.

He has also inspired his peers to get involved in charity work, and everyone who knows him, from friends and family to his teachers and fellow pupils, are full of admiration for his strength and courage in the face of adversity.

Family commitments meant Martin could not collect his award in person in December, so recently he joined staff at the Evening Times offices for a special presentation from Editor Graham Shields.

It also gave the teenager the chance to get some work experience – he hopes to become a journalist in the future – and he shadowed reporters and writers, getting his first byline in the newspaper and online.

“It was a brilliant experience and gave me great insight into the world I hope to work in one day,” he says.

Martin admits hearing he had won the award came as a shock.

“I couldn’t believe it – I’ve never won anything in my life, not even a scratch card,” he laughs.

“I used to be laughed at for trying to help other people, so knowing that what I do does help people, feels amazing.

“It’s just mad to think that me making a small difference has been recognised in such a big way.”

Martin, who plans to study business and journalism at college next year, is also hoping to be re-elected to the Scottish Youth Parliament for the Glasgow Cathcart constituency.

“I’m really excited about it,” he smiles.

“I’m hoping the young people of Cathcart will allow me to continue to advocate on their behalf and to represent them in their youth parliament.

“I love that it helps me make a positive difference – it helps me to be the change that young people across the south side want to see.”

Martin adds: “It’s been a real privilege to represent people in the community I grew up in.

“I’m hopeful that I’ve done a good enough job over the past two years to be given another two.”

Martin is excited about the launch of the 10th anniversary of Community Champions and he urges all Evening Times readers to nominate the groups and individuals they feel make a difference in their communities.

For this kind-hearted teenager, being part of Community Champions has been a fantastic experience.

“It’s exciting, and it’s something totally different for the city that shows the people of Glasgow in a great light,” he explains.

“Being at the events and hearing the good people do makes you realise how important these awards are for our city, and just how many people are out there, doing their best for everyone.”