Patron of Paisley’s Scottish Huntington’s Association (SHA), Sarah Winckless, has been crowned UK charity champion by the ScottishPower Foundation.

The SHA is the only charity in the country that supports families living with the degenerative brain condition Huntington’s disease (HD). Sarah, who has been Patron of the SHA since 2009, won a bronze medal in the rowing double sculls with her partner Elise Laverick at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and was twice world champion in 2005 and 2006.

She tested positive for the faulty gene that cause HD while a student at Cambridge University.

HD is an incurable genetic brain disorder that usually starts between the ages of 35 and 45 years. It begins with personality changes that can make those diagnosed aggressive, anxious and depressed. The disease progresses slowly, with changes to muscle control that slowly erodes mobility and the ability to talk. As it progress those affected will need 24 hour care. It is also hereditary with each child of those diagnosed at 50% risk of developing the disease.

‘I am delighted to win this award on behalf of the work I do for the charity. The SHA is run by hugely committed, talented individuals who work together to make things better for the families who are affected by HD. I am incredibly proud to be a small part of that work which gives me as much as I give it. I am also delighted that the award come with a cheque which will enable us to continue to work better together,’ said Sarah.

As part of the award the SHA will receive a £5000 donation from the Foundation.

The SHA works with the HD community through a team of specialist nurses, the world’s only HD youth support and a financial wellbeing helpdesk.

SHA chief executive, John Eden said:

‘“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Sarah. She has been a tireless campaigner for people living with HD and for us as an organisation. Having her on board as a figurehead is an inspiration to everyone connected with the charity. She has helped us achieve so much since becoming our Patron, in ways that would never have been possible without her support.’

This is the third year of the ScottishPower Foundation Awards which recognises achievements by non-profit organisations.

Sarah Winckless Scottish Huntingtons Association charity champion SHAPicture shows: Sarah Winckless