A MOTHER from Cwmtwrch has won the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award.

Andrea Smith was presented with her award by Lorraine Kelly at the Women of the Year lunch in London.

Andrea set up a football academy and youth club for children with autism in the area in partnership with the Swansea City Community Trust, phone company EE, and Cwm Wanderers football club.

The club aims to teach children with autism football skills in a supportive environment, with the ambition of integrating them into the mainstream team.

The project has grown from strength to strength over the last twelve months, and saw Andrea nominated for the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award, which she went on to win last Monday.

Speaking following the announcement, Andrea said: “It was mad. I did not think I had a chance whatsoever.

“I was nominated by my friend, and was surprised on the pitch at the Liberty Stadium by all these tv camera and Kate Thornton, on Lorraine, to be told I had made the final three.

“Heading to London for the final I just went with the mindset of enjoying the day. They told me to prepare some words in case I won, but I was so certain I wouldn’t that I didn’t even bother.

“I was completely lost for words when I won. It was a real privilege to go and collect the award, not just for myself, but for the entire club and all the coaches and children involved. It was for everybody, and great recognition of the hours and hours of work all the volunteers have put in.”

Andrea was inspired to create the club by her son, who has autism and always wanted to play football but was unable to find a club that could cater for him.

“I work for EE and they put on a Dragons Den type competition, looking for ideas that combined technology and sport,” said Andrea.

“I pitched this idea and afterwards a gentleman from the Swansea City Trust, who was there for another project, approached me and asked if they could get involved. It all started from there.

“They have been supporting us all year and it has really grown. We have 26 children on the books at the moment and 30 more on the waiting list.”

Andrea has big plans for the club moving forward, as they have recently launched a fundraising campaign to fund a new 4G pitches and are looking to increase the club’s capacity.

She added: “The club can’t play on grass pitches, because with the weather there is a chance training would have to be cancelled, and that throws off the children’s routine which is really important.

“So we currently train on AstroTurf pitches which are a bit of a trek from the clubhouse. It is difficult for the parents to get to and eats into time that should be a respite for them. For a lot of the children this is their only activity outside of school and should be a chance for the parents to have a break.

“Having a 4G pitch would be massive for us. Especially as, if we are to have more capacity, getting back and forth from the AstroTurf is going to get harder and harder logistically.”

New coaches are currently being trained to allow the club to take on more children, and are expected to be ready by November to take the weekly training sessions held on Wednesdays.

Since the awards, Andrea has been contacted by a major Premier League club who are looking to use the Cwm Wanderers ASD Academy as a model of excellence with a vision on rolling it out across London.

If anyone wants to get involved at the club, they should email cwmwanderersasd@gmail.com.