A charity that has had a new lease of life since marking its 25th anniversary has received a cash award to help its further growth.
The Oxygen Works, created by the MS Therapy Centre, in Inverness, was the chosen charity at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) and £2,995 raised on the night has been handed over to the centre to help its life-changing services.
The Oxygen Works provides a range of treatments – including oxygen therapy, physiotherapy and massage and reflexology – to help people with a number of medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s and diabetes, as well as sports injuries.
It is the only facility of its kind in the UK providing such a range of therapies and services to a diverse population of individuals and uses the only oxygen chamber in the central Highlands of Scotland.
More than 500 centre members travel from across the Highlands and from as far afield as Aberdeen and the Outer
Hebrides, to use the facilities. Over its 25 years, staff have helped all ages, from an eight-month-old baby to a 99-year-old grandmother.
As part of its 25th anniversary celebrations, the centre in the city’s Burnett Road was re-branded as it improved and expanded its services.
Craig Ewan, HITA’s chairman, said: “The Oxygen Works does fantastic work for so many people with different conditions and we are delighted to be able to help its ongoing work.”
Leigh-Ann Little, the centre manager, said: “We are extremely grateful to HITA for such a generous donation.
“The centre is going from strength to strength and this money will assist us in our ongoing efforts to help as many people as possible.”
HITA 2018 was launched in March and aims to build on the success of last year’s awards which attracted an unprecedented 232 entries and nominations – an increase of more than 14 per cent on the 2016 figure and up 70 per cent on 2014.
The competition, which is being held in association with SSE for a sixth successive year, will crown winners in 14 categories, with the best places to stay, eat and drink and enjoy the area’s outdoors and musical culture among those to be honoured.
The Scottish Government has praised the work of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards for helping to raise standards of excellence in the industry as this year’s search begins to find the industry’s leading stars.
The 2017 HITA scheme was launched at the Great Loch Ness Tea Party, an event to celebrate the future of the local tourism industry in collaboration with students of the Inverness College UHI hospitality department.
Pic caption: HITA chair Craig Ewan (seated centre) with HITA board members Marina Huggett (left) and Lorna Maclennan and Inverness College UHI students (left to right) Edward Holmes, Adam Nicolson and Lewis Mapplebeck
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop declared her support for HITA in a message to the awards organisers.
She said: “Tourism is a vital and growing economic mainstay of the Highlands and Islands, supporting some 30,000 jobs and generating vital substantial revenue, and the industry’s reach into every corner of the area means that tourism is everybody’s business.
“The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards highlight the very best businesses and individuals who go beyond normal standards to ensure superb visitor experiences, whether through hospitality, catering, events, activities or other pioneering industry work.”
Now in their 13th year, the awards celebrate excellence across all sectors of the industry in the Highlands and Islands. Last year, 203 businesses or individuals entered or were nominated for awards, the biggest ever response in the event’s history.
HITA chair Craig Ewan said: “Tourism operators have to constantly improve, develop and innovate to stay ahead in a highly-competitive industry. HITA does the same to ensure we reward the very best and promote the fantastic work being done by people across our region to provide excellent service for our guests.
“Last year was our most successful in terms of entries and nominations and we aim to build on that success to involve even more businesses and individuals who deserve to be recognised.”
HITA, which is run in association with SSE, is recognised as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland, where the tourism sector is worth more than £4.5 billion to the economy.
The famous piper trophies will be awarded in 16 categories, with winners going on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.
This year, in line with Scotland’s themed Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there is a new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience.
Nominations and entries can be made from today via the HITA website www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
Nominations close on 23 June and the entries deadline is 30 June. The event will culminate in a grand ceremony for finalists at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on 3 November.
Ken Macaulay credits the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland charity with helping him get his life back and in return has assisted in giving the organisation a funding tonic.
Acting on Ken’s suggestion, £2647.50 raised at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) in November is being donated to CHSS, which improves the quality of life for people recovering from life threatening illness across Scotland.
Ken, who has been a board member of HITA since their inception in 2003, was indebted to the support received from CHSS when he suffered a stroke two and a half years ago.
He said: “It was an obvious choice for me. CHSS is a very important and worthwhile charity which supports so many people. When someone has a stroke the follow-up care is as important, or even more important, than the initial treatment.
“Having had a stroke myself, I know first-hand the fantastic work the charity’s staff do to help survivors and their families. They help with all aspects of the recovery process. In my case, they gave me the confidence to get my life back.”
Ken, the former owner of Tulloch Castle in Dingwall, suffered his stroke on the evening of 23 August 2014, hours after attending an Inverness Caledonian Thistle v Celtic match.
“I was reading the paper in bed when all of a sudden I couldn’t see the print. I put the light out and went to sleep but my wife woke me up at 5a.m. as I was tossing and turning. I got up but couldn’t see properly and couldn’t remember anything. The only thing I did know for sure was that Caley Thistle had beaten Celtic 1-0!”
The stroke left him unable to see out of his left side, which affected his coordination. It also affected his speech and memory. In addition, he was unable to drive for 18 months and had to go through a series of tests before having his licence returned.
At the same time, he lost his confidence and could not attend football matches or the theatre as he was uncomfortable in crowds and with noise.
However, he continued his work with HITA and, with CHSS support, gradually returned to other activities.
“I’ve spoken with a number of people who have had a stroke and losing confidence is a big thing. It’s also important for families and friends to understand how the person who has had the stroke is feeling.
“I received great care in the hospital, but afterwards the support of CHSS in helping me take the steps to get back my life was crucial.”
The work of CHSS includes medical research, influencing public policy, advice and information, and support in the community. The charity offers a range of community services throughout Scotland, including support for families and other carers.
Its activities in the Highlands and Islands include a regional office in Inverness, communication support services, advice lines, specialist stroke nurses, a stroke training programme for health professionals and cardiac and respiratory support service.
Paul Corrigan, the charity’s North fundraising manager, said: “Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland are extremely honoured to be the 2016 HITA charity beneficiary and are sincerely grateful to HITA for this valued support.
“We are very grateful to Ken for nominating us and we are delighted that he is making a full recovery from his stroke with the assistance of CHSS staff.
“We firmly believe that whilst surviving a life-threatening illness or health condition is good, getting your life back is better and supporting and assisting people like Ken to regain their independence and quality of life is essential. What matters to people like Ken matters to us.
“This amazing donation will go directly to help people with debilitating illness in the Highlands and Islands get their quality of life back too.”
A voluntary organisation that supports children and their families coping with life-shortening conditions has been selected as the charity beneficiary of the 2015 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA).
Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) assists over 350 families with specialist care across the country, including home care services from a base in Inverness.
HITA Chair Marina Huggett said: “Our board selected CHAS for the unique work done by its staff and volunteers through nursing care, practical help and emotional support, and providing Scotland’s only dedicated hospice services in Scotland for children and young people who have incurable life-shortening conditions.
Here in the north of Scotland, the CHAS at Home team also organises fun gatherings for groups of families, which reflects the organisation’s very flexible approach to helping during times of extreme emotional and other demands, and we are delighted to provide some help for the organisation’s invaluable role.
Each year, HITA identifies a different charity to receive funds to be raised at its November awards dinner that celebrates excellence in tourism activities including hospitality, dining, adventure activities, events and visitor service innovations. Last year, the association donated £2,250 to the Parkinson’s UK research programme.
CHAS operates through its two hospices, Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch, West Dunbartonshire – and also through CHAS at Home which has teams working from both hospices as well as dedicated teams in Inverness and Aberdeen, caring for families in their own homes when they need it most.
Angela Cran, CHAS Fundraiser in Inverness, said: “It’s fantastic news that the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards board has selected CHAS as its charity at this year’s event. Our home care team based in Inverness travels all over the Highlands and Islands and provides a lifeline to families as far away as the Western Isles. This is a wonderful opportunity to tell people about the fantastic work our team is doing every day.”
CHAS services are free and are funded mainly through a large number of fund-raising supporters who help to raise the £9 million it needs each year.
Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards~
Twitter – @HiTourismAwards