Prestigious award for Autism Society worker


A supporter worker has won a prestigious award for her pioneering work in using golf to enhance the lives of autistic people in the North East.

Sharon Cotterell, who works for the North East Autism Society based on the Drum Industrial Estate, was named the winner of the Sir Bobby Robson Leading Light Award at the 20th anniversary of the Local Heroes Awards staged by The Northern Echo.

She was honoured in the Grand Marquee at Wynyard Hall for helping to establish the UK’s first autism-friendly golf driving range at New Warlands Farm, at Burnhope, County Durham. Sharon was also recognised for having the drive to secure Sport England funding to support regular coaching for three autistic adults. She had the vision to contact a foundation run by golf superstar Ernie Els, whose son Ben is autistic. The foundation sent a UK representative to the UK to advise on the project.

European Tour golfer, Graeme Storm, of Hartlepool, officially opened the golf driving range in July, and he was at the Local Heroes event to present Sharon with her award, which was sponsored by Virgin Money.

During an interview on stage with event host Peter Barron, Graeme said: “What Sharon has done is incredible – using her own passion for golf to make a real difference to the lives of autistic people.”

After receiving the award, Sharon said: “I honestly can’t believe it – I’m overwhelmed. It’s just so nice to be recognised in this way.”