And for one small Texan town, today is Tom Martin Hughes Day, named after a former Haute Vallée student as a result of a conversation with his hero, martial arts and film star Chuck Norris.
Navasota – the childhood home of Mr Norris – honoured Mr Hughes after he gave a speech to children in the town last year about his fundraising exploits.
Today, 19-year-old Mr Hughes will be leading a social media challenge – featuring a message from Mr Norris – with the aim of encouraging more people to do something that makes a difference to the lives of others.
‘From a young age, Mr Norris has been a huge inspiration to me and his own charitable work inspired me to become a volunteer,’ said Mr Hughes, who began volunteering with St John Ambulance at the age of eight. Last year, after writing a fan letter to Mr Norris and receiving an encouraging response, Mr Hughes was put in touch with the mayor of Navasota.
‘I was asked if I would come over and speak to students about the power of volunteering and engaging with the community. I gave a talk to the young people and was also invited to a city council meeting, where it was declared that 28 October would now be Tom Martin Hughes Day.
‘This year I wanted to go back to meet everyone and speak to the students. I was granted government permission to travel, but made the decision it was not the right move to travel internationally at the moment. Instead, I am having a virtual assembly with the students in Navasota, who I met last year. I am also going on social media to take the day beyond the borders of Texas and spread the message of how important it is to volunteer and do community service, especially in today’s climate.’
He added: ‘The day isn’t about me, it’s about engaging people with charity work and volunteering. We have seen demonstrations like clap for carers, and have been showing great support for workers in the pandemic. But this needs to continue beyond the pandemic.’
Mr Hughes’ initiative to spread the word about the benefits of volunteering will be aided by Mr Norris, who was due to send a video message today to encourage more people to make a difference in their community. Mr Hughes, who now works for the charity team of a high-profile fashion brand, has previously been recognised by former Prime Minister Theresa May for his efforts with St John Ambulance and his work to have first aid taught as part of the school curriculum locally and nationally.
In 2018 he was presented with a Sovereign’s Award by the Queen in honour of his service to both St John Ambulance and the community.
Mr Hughes has also worked with a charity called TAPS, to support the children of service parents who have died in combat, and with the States police to encourage young people to be mentored by officers in an effort to break down the stigma between youths and the police.
‘There are so many charities around the Island, ranging in different things, so there is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in volunteering or charity work,’ he said. ‘Some things – like volunteering as a member of a charitable organisation – are long-term, but other things, like writing a card to a first responder, is a brief act of kindness. There is something out there for everyone, whether that is five minutes a day or a couple of hours a week.’