John Halpin’s pride in the work of Carlisle United's Community Sports Trust is clear, but he says: “Someone once said that our work is the best kept secret in football - and they’re probably right.”

With the support of Cumbrian television presenter Helen Skelton, however, he and his team aim to open a few more eyes about the impact that charity has on lives throughout the county through its sport, education, health and well-being programmes.

The first Carlisle United Sports Trust Awards, launched today, will recognise the achievements of those involved in those wide-ranging initiatives - numbering about 20,000 every year.

Former United winger Halpin said: “Our dedicated team and the groups we work with all see the benefit of our programmes each and every day.

“But we are so busy delivering the activities, we rarely have the time to reflect and share our successes with others.

“We want to make this a real celebration, to acknowledge the hard work of our highly-skilled team and all our participants, as well as raise our profile within the wider business community.”

The awards will feature Skelton - a Blues fan whose brother, Gavin, is United’s assistant manager - as guest speaker.

And it’s a role she’s been delighted to accept.

The former Blue Peter presenter, from Kirkby Thore, near Penrith, is a renowned sports fan who has fronted coverage of Olympic Games for the BBC, presented on BT Sport and became the first person to reach the South Pole by bicycle for Sport Relief in 2012.

She said: “Throughout my career, I have seen time and time again the incredible power of sport and the role it can play in transforming people’s lives.

“The trust has been delivering valuable life-changing community programmes for more than a decade now, but often, the achievements within them remain unacknowledged. This event is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to reflect and celebrate, say ‘well done’ and hopefully inspire others to get involved.”

The ceremony will be held at The Halston, Warwick Road, on Friday, April 24.

It is expected to be a huge occasion. Hosted by another well-known United fan, BBC Radio Cumbria’s Mike Zeller, it will feature a live band and three-course meal.

The evening will reflect the successes of the trust and those with whom it works with, across a wide spectrum of ages and abilities.

That includes school curriculum coaching scheme, an after-school programme, lunchtime sessions, a National Citizenship Government-backed initiative where young people attend residential courses - which have been praised widely - and a walking football team for older players.

The trust also works with a variety of agencies and organisations to provide tailormade programmes to help tackle social issues such as mental health, isolation and homelessness. The scope of its work, which is based from United’s Brunton Park home but takes the team to a whole range of communities and settings, is continually increasing.

New activities being developed include working with residents at Barn Close care home in Stanwix, Carlisle, on their health and well-being. As well as celebrating the successes of those who currently engage with the trust’s work, Halpin and his team of trustees hope the awards will be a chance to showcase the wide impact of the project - and encourage more people to get involved.

Businesses are invited to take up sponsorship packages or purchase a table at the event, which the charity’s chiefs promise will be a night to remember.

Halpin said: “The evening will certainly have a strong Cumbrian flavour and we can’t wait to share it with local businesses who are equally proud of where they live and work.

“We are delighted to have such an entertaining host and guest speaker who will both, undoubtedly, shine a light on the achievements of our participants and team members. Each and every day we meet such inspiring people on our programmes and there are some wonderful stories to tell.

"We can’t wait to share them with our guests in one of the most popular venues in Carlisle."

Opportunities for business to become involved are available now.

To enquire about sponsorship, buy a table or find out more about the trust’s work, details are available from trustees: John Halpin -, 07862 724318; Andrew Gordon - Andrew.Gordon@, 01228 403141 and Sue Kaveney -, 07917 273884.