IT WAS two days after Christmas when Gareth Shepherd slipped on his motorbike in an accident which would change his life forever.

Gareth, who was working as an IT assistant at Dimplex, rode his motorcycle from Southampton along the A36, when his bike skidded along the ice causing the then 30-year-old to crash.

He was rushed to Southampton General Hospital, with severe damage to his neck. Just three days later, Gareth then suffered a stroke which left him in an eight-month coma with only an 11 per cent chance of survival.

Against all odds, Gareth survived and learned how to walk and talk again.

Now the 34-year-old from Lordshill has been awarded the Overcoming Obstacle Volunteer Award from the charity, Sue Ryder.

After losing his home in Ocean Village as well as his car and motorcycle, Gareth was at a loss of what to do with his life, when he noticed the Sue Ryder charity shop in Lordshill.

In February this year, he approached the store to ask if he could volunteer. Unsure of his capabilities a nervous Gareth wanted to offer his time to the charity that helps support people with complex needs and life-threatening illnesses across the UK.

Although Gareth still has some difficulty with walking, talking and writing, he volunteers three times a week – sorting, tagging and handling stock.

Gareth said: “It has been really difficult but all I think about is getting better, losing the material things didn’t matter.

“I noticed the Sue Ryder store near my house and I wanted to offer my time.

“The best thing about working in the store is the people.

“I have a lot of fun socialising with the customers.”

Daily Echo:

PICTURED: The bike Gareth was riding when he crashed

Gareth was one of more than 200 volunteers nominated to be recognised for a prestigious volunteer awards organised by the national health and social care charity.

Sue Ryder’s annual volunteer awards aims to celebrate volunteers’ commitment and achievements, recognising people who have gone the extra mile and making an outstanding contribution to Sue Ryder’s work.

“If I wasn’t working in the shop I would be sitting at home watching TV.

“The store has helped me to start a new life.

“It feels like I have a life and a purpose again,” he said.

Awards were presented to Gareth, along with the winners and highly commended in eight other categories at The Dunchurch Park Hotel, Warwickshire, earlier this month.

The annual ceremony is hosted by Sue Ryder to share successes and inspire others to volunteer by showing the impact one individual can have.

Shop mManager, Wanda Scully said: “Gareth shows resilience every day by not letting his disability get in the way of anything.

“He has shown amazing strength and courage, and has such a positive attitude and outlook on life.”

The charity has more than 12,000 volunteers across the UK who support the organisation.

Head of volunteering at Sue Ryder, Tracey Le Gallez, said: “Each and every one of our volunteers is invaluable to us and we can’t thank them enough for giving us their time and skills.

“So many people help us by volunteering in our shops, care centres and offices, and in their local community.

“Without their support, we simply could not exist.”

Gareth, who is still passionate about motorcycles, hopes that he can return to paid employment in the future.