The Morecambe FC manager has paid tribute to a schoolboy with a big heart as both picked up awards at our annual celebration of community heroes.
Jim Bentley praised 11-year-old Reece Holt at the 2017 Visitor Sunshine Awards held at the Midland hotel.
Brave Reece, looking dapper in a suit and tie, collected his Young Achiever award in person just hours before a round of chemotherapy treatment.
The Overton schoolboy beamed as he received a huge round of applause from guests at the event.
Reece won the award because of his charity work raising thousands for Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool while undergoing treatment for brain cancer.
“Reece is absolutely fantastic,” said Jim.
“I remember being in Alder Hey a few times myself over the years after coming off my bike (as a kid). It’s a great place, so well done to Reece.”
Both Reece and Jim were chosen as award winners by The Visitor editorial team.
The Shrimps manager, who has been at Morecambe FC as player and manager for 15 years, won our annual Ambassador award for guiding the team to Football League safety during a tumultuous season.
During his emotional acceptance speech, Jim also thanked club director Rod Taylor and his family for their hard work keeping the Shrimps afloat during a season of off-field issues.
“Rod and his family deserve a massive amount of respect,” he said.
“All through what’s gone on, there are people in the background. Rod and his family have stood strong and put an awful lot of work into the football club over many years.
“Whenever you turned on the TV during the problems this season, it was always Rod Taylor talking on behalf of the football club.
“You’ve just given me a standing ovation. But Rod in my opinion is Mr Morecambe and deserves a standing ovation. He’s absolutely brilliant.”
Jim also thanked his wife Marie, who attended the awards ceremony with her husband.
“I spend a lot of time away from home, with overnight stays.
“The league is very southern based at the moment so I go to Portsmouth, Plymouth, Exeter, but my wife raises my kids in my absence,” he said.
“Sometimes in football you get nominated for awards but this has gone beyond football tonight.
“It hasn’t been an easy year. It’s not nice when you see your club dragged through the dirt as it has been for the last nine months. It’s been hard, I’ve had to stand in front of people and tell them they won’t be getting paid. Hopefully we’re through the worst of it.
“Fifteen years I’ve been here, I won’t always be here but this place with always have a special place in my heart. It’s been a massive part of my life.
“It’s the community’s football club. The community can be absolutely proud of getting behind us during a sticky spell. Everything is stacked against us as regards to where we are as a football club and a town, but we have a big heart and we always come out fighting.”
The awards were sponsored by Wright and Lord solicitors. Stephen Wright from Wright and Lord presented Jim with his award.
The drinks reception was sponsored by The Carpetman. St John’s Hospice choir sang to guests as they arrived.
WARNING - Video contains strong language.