Double Commonwealth Gold winning judo champion Sarah Adlington presented 19 exceptional Syrian refugee children and young adults with their red belts this week.

She honoured the youngsters, who recently completed a life-transforming 16-week programme organised by the Loretta Doyle Judo Foundation, at an awards ceremony in the Garnock Community Campus on Thursday, August 24.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Garnock judo event

The charity, based in West Kilbride, was keen to showcase the incredible impact of community support and sport in transcending barriers.

The ceremony proved be a heartwarming gathering, where award winners stood alongside their parents, guardians, and families, showcasing North Ayrshire's commitment to inclusivity and progress on a global stage.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Garnock judo event

And the charity's programme is set to continue, with a lessons for 27 Ukrainian refugees set to commence at Irvine Judo Club on August 30.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Garnock judo event

Founder Loretta is herself a much admired former World, Double-European, British Champion, and Commonwealth Games Gold and Silver Medallist.

Her charity is dedicated to enhancing lives exemplified through a programme of free Judo lessons, which have touched the lives of young refugees from war-torn Syria.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Garnock judo event

By extending this helping hand, the foundation has not only fostered personal development but has also facilitated the integration of these young newcomers into their new homes within the Ayrshire community.

Guided by the North Ayrshire Council, the recipients of these lessons, affectionately referred to as "New Scots," have demonstrated unparalleled dedication throughout the 16-week programme, embodying a spirit of resilience and determination that knows no bounds.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Garnock judo event

The pinnacle of the evening was the Red Belt Judo grading ceremony attended by Sarah, whose back-to-back Gold Medal victories at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and the Glasgow Games underscore her remarkable skill and unwavering dedication to the sport.

The big event was also attended by Judith McCleary, chief executive officer of JudoScotland, the national governing body for the sport in Scotland.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Garnock judo event

At the Garnock event, she highlighted the role of community initiatives like this in nurturing the sport's growth.

Loretta said: "Our 19 young Syrian “New Scots” have been exemplary pupils of the sport and discipline of Judo over the past 16 weeks.

"They have magnificently earned a coveted Red Belt awarded not just for their ability to take a fall without hurting themselves, or techniques to grip and throw: but with sporting friendship and with courtesy for their opponents.

"To engage in Judo requires courage, balanced with self-control, modesty and honesty.  These kids have demonstrated all of that.

"This is their first step on the journey to Black Belt.

"They have my respect for the manner in which they have joined the judo family.  It has been superb fun and enjoyment with lively young people full of the zest of life which will continue with new classes starting in September."

The Loretta Doyle Judo Foundation was founded in December 2019. Despite initial setbacks due to Covid lockdowns, the Foundation re-emerged in 2022 with renewed determination.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Garnock judo event

Among its ongoing initiatives are specialized judo classes for the visually impaired, coaching for a school catering to children with behavioural difficulties, free Judo lessons for those marginalized by poverty in urban areas, as well as the Irvine judo programme next week.