Affiliate Owner Simon Darby Earns Prestigious MBE Award for Work With Youth Cancer Survivors

January 25, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Simon Darby
Enjoying Morning Chalk Up? Access additional exclusive interviews, analyses, and stories with an Rx membership.

Simon Darby, a Young Lives vs Cancer social worker and the founder of the CrossFit-based MOVE Forward program in Northern Ireland, has received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list for his work and support of young people that have undergone treatment for cancer. 

One big thing: The MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) is the third-highest ranking Order of the British Empire award, behind CBE and OBE. The MBE recognizes individuals that make a positive impact on the community or in their line of work. 

  • Darby, a Level 2 CrossFit trainer, established the MOVE Forward rehabilitation program. This CrossFit-based exercise program focuses on young adults and families living life after cancer treatment in Northern Ireland. 
  • This program has successfully run for five years and earned an “Excellence in Rehabilitation Award” while operating out of CrossFit Northern Ireland and Boundary CrossFit Lisburn.

Darby, who has worked for Young Lives vs Cancer since 2011, discovered a lump on his right testicle at the age of 19 when he was pursuing a career in social work. This wasn’t the main motivating factor in his decision to focus on this career field, but it helped him provide empathy while working with young people facing cancer. 

Adapting to nationwide limitations: With lockdowns across the United Kingdom in 2020 due to COVID-19, there were issues holding in-person classes. The MOVE Forward program continued in a different way with a 10-week “MOVE Forward at Home” program taught by three CrossFit coaches over Zoom. 

  • Young Lives vs Cancer, in collaboration with Teenage Cancer Trust, went a step further in May 2020 with a three nation challenge. They encouraged more than 85 young people, their families, and staff to compete and gain points by completing a variety of activities. 
  • The participants took part in physical and mental activities such as walking, running, mindfulness, meditation, and knitting among other things. 
  • The work continued in May 2021 with a collaboration between MOVE Forward, The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children’s Haematology and Oncology Department, and The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity. The groups ran a six-week CrossFit program for young people ages 11-14. 

“Five years ago I went back to University to complete a masters at Ulster University, focusing on exercise and young adults with cancer,” Darby said in a press release. “I then started MOVE Forward, which has seen more than 50 young people improve their fitness, quality of life and fatigue over the last four years.

“The best part of this is seeing the young adults who have come through the programme thriving in their lives and becoming the coaches to deliver the programme. This year through the success of our MOVE Forward programme we are expanding into five new locations so we can reach more young people and their families through CrossFit. CrossFit 8020, CrossFit Coleraine, CrossFit Enable, CrossFit Northern Ireland- Teens and CrossFit Derry.”

The bottom line: CrossFit always has been and always will be about community. Competitions are entertaining, but the methodology is built upon a foundation of supporting others so they can live healthier lives. Darby, as well as Scott and Freya Britton at Battle Cancer, have dedicated themselves to pursuing this goal while focusing on those that have undergone treatment for cancer. 

Get the Newsletter

For a daily digest of all things CrossFit. Community, Competitions, Athletes, Tips, Recipes, Deals and more.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.