Sunday, 14 August 2022

Sporting, courageous and young achievers

Sporting, courageous and young achievers

Kelly Williams with her mother Kay

THE nominees for this year’s Sue Ryder women of achievement awards have been announced.

In the build-up to the awards ceremony on March 10, the Henley Standard is featuring the 14 women from the Henley area who have been nominated in categories including sport, community, education, services, courage and young woman of achievement. This week, we feature the nominees in the sport, courage and young person categories.

This week, we feature the nominees in the sport, courage and young person categories.


Karen Bennett

Mikki Bennett


THIS mother and daughter team have been central to Henley’s synchronised swimming team, racking up almost 70 years of service between them.

Karen, 50, from Peppard Common, was one of the first members of the group in 1977.

She moved to the area from Canada, where she first took part in synchronised swimming with her sisters at the age of seven.

She swam in Reading before moving into coaching.

Mikki, 27, from Sonning Common, took part in her first show when she was five and was soon winning medals every time she entered the water.

She began coaching at 14 but continued to compete for another two years.

Mikki now runs daily lessons at Henley leisure centre.

Nine years ago, the pair made costumes for a club production of Peter Pan. Four years later they began to take it more seriously and Mikki started a business making the outfits.

Among those they now make costumes for are Team GB, who wore their creations at last year’s Rio Olympics.

Each costume featured crystals and sequins and took 50 hours to make.

Karen said she was “very touched and moved” to be nominated, adding: “I just wasn’t expecting this.”

She said: “We have seen so many girls come through the club and we do what we do because it’s fun. The girls love competing and winning.”

Mikki added: “I’m excited, suprised and massively grateful to be put forward.”



THIS jockey from Henley comes from a long line of horse lovers.

Her grandfather Douglas Marks was a successful racehorse trainer, her father Martin O’Halloran is an accomplished National Hunt jockey and her aunt Kelly Marks founded horse-whispering company Intelligent Horsemanship.

Despite this heritage, Mrs Smith only took up the sport when she was 12, having already tried her luck at cooking, singing, piano and harp.

Six months later, she reached the Search for a Star final at the Horse of the Year Show.

Since then, Mrs Smith has qualified 10 more times for the show and six times for Royal International Horse Show held at the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead.

She has also won as a jockey at the Royal Windsor, Kent County and Cheshire County races, represented England in working hunter pony classes and became the only person to win rider of the year twice at the British Show Pony Society Championships.

Thre 31-year-old has ridden dozens of horses but her best mount, American Pie, was a 15th birthday present.

Together, they went on to win every major county show, including the prestigious Desert Orchid Working Hunter of the Year, and are still together 16 years later.

Despite suffering a fall in 2014, Mrs Smith returned to the saddle and now works as a judge, teacher and writer on horse riding.

She also runs a blog called How Very Horsey, where she talks about her own experiences in the equine world, and is planning to write a book on her career with American Pie. She said: “I’m amazed and shocked to have been nominated. It’s bizarre but so lovely that someone has taken the time to do this.

“When I started my blog I said that if one person reads it and it makes a difference that will be enough but now I have 10,000 readers.

“A friend of mine, Naomi Vallance, won at the awards a few years ago so I know about them. I’ve also done some fund-raising for Sue Ryder.

“I’ll be going to the ceremony alone but it will be nice to meet the other people there.”



Kelly Williams with her mother Kay


LAST year, Kelly Williams lost both her parents within two months of each other.

Steve and Kay Landau, from Shiplake, spent their final days at the Sue Ryder hospice in

Mrs Landau, who had a brain tumour, passed away in February.

Shortly after her death, Mrs Williams returned from holiday to find her father’s health had deteriorated, so she took him to the oncologist only to be told that he, too, was terminally ill.

Mr Landau, who had liver, stomach and oesophageal cancer, was moved to the hospice and died in April, exactly two months after his wife.

Following their deaths, Mrs Williams wanted to help the charity, so she organised a Seventies-themed ball to celebrate what would have been her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.

Now she is hoping to make the ball an annual event and is looking at other ways to support Sue Ryder.

She also regularly visits the hospice for a cup of tea and chat with the staff. Mrs Williams, from Didcot, said: “I burst into tears when I opened the letter saying I had been nominated. I’d been at Sue Ryder that morning and no one there had let on.

“I’m honoured, shocked and speechless. Sue Ryder is incredibly special to me and I know mum and dad would be proud.

“It’s bittersweet as I’ve been nominated because I lost them but I want to ring them and tell them.”

 Beverley Dallimore


AFTER finding out her husband Darren had lung cancer in June last year, Beverley Dallimore dedicated her time to caring for him while also working as a cleaner.

Mr Dallimore died in November and during his final months his wife would cook his breakfast and help a nurse with his medication before work and then come home in the evening to cook dinner.

She would often be up late at night when he was in pain even if it meant she herself was unable to sleep.

She moved into the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed for a week before returning home for her husband’s final days, as it was his wish to die at home. 

Mrs Dallimore, 50, of Henley Road, Caversham, is no stranger to heartbreak as she also cared for her parents before they died several years ago.

Despite the challenges of seeing a loved one battle an incurable illness, her daughter Zoe says she always walks out of the door with a smile on her face.

Mrs Dallimore said: “It was a bit of a shock to be nominated. Zoe didn’t let on until I got the letter.

“I wasn’t coping very well at the time so Zoe is still dealing with all the paperwork.

“It was bit bittersweet but it was really nice.”

Young woman of achievement:

Emily Wilkinson


THIS teenager overcame early hardship in her life to excel both inside and outside school .

Her mother Helen died from brain cancer when she was just eight but Emily’s academic excellence led her to join Shiplake College in 2015 to study for her A-levels.

Now 18, she became the first girl to serve as head of the college as girls only join in sixth form.

She was awarded an academic scholarship in biology as well as the headmaster’s award in her first year.

This was despite suffering from Crohn’s disease, a bowel condition which led her to have a major operation to remove her large intestine and part of her small intestine.

Emily has also achieved Grade 7 ballet, been a national drill champion with the air cadets and is a young ambassador for Twyford bereavement charity Daisy’s Dream.

She recently completed her Duke of Edinburgh gold award.

Emily said: “I’m very honoured to have been nominated. I had no idea, so it was a real surprise.

“It was amazing when I opened the letter. I was a bit confused and didn’t know what was going on but my parents knew I was going to get a letter and kept asking if I’d had my post!

“I’m really looking forward to the ceremony — I’m going with my dad and his partner.”

Goring Robins U13s


DESPITE only starting a girls-only team four years ago, Goring Robins have quickly become one of the most successful sides in the region.

The club has had junior football sides for more than 40 years but in 2013 decided to offer training sessions for girls in the village.

After great success in practice sessions, the side joined a league to play competitive games and finished third in the top division in their first season.

The team also won a regional football festival in the summer the same year.

Despite their success, the side puts a lot of importance on fairness and teamwork, with each player being afforded the same amount of time on the pitch, sharing the less popular role of goalkeeper and helping to take out and put away all their equipment before and after matches.

The success of the under-13s has encouraged other girls in the area to join the club, which now has four different girls’ teams from under- sevens upwards.

Coach Maria Turnbull said: “I’ve been involved with Goring Robins for many years, since I was a child, and for a long time coached a boys’ side.

“My ambition was to have a girls’ team but we never quite had enough interest. In the end it happened almost by accident and we now have four very active teams. The club is growing and the oldest girls’ team is an inspiration.

“The siblings would come along to watch their brothers play and see the girls and think ‘we can do that too’. It’s inspired a generation.

“They have been really fantastic. They don’t miss training for anything and come to every possible match.

“We have taster days where they all help out and show the little ones what to do. They are very supportive of each other and are a great set of girls.”

Mrs Turnbull said she had told parents of the players about the ceremony and hoped they would be able to attend.

• THE 2017 Sue Ryder women of achievement awards ceremony will be held at Trunkwell House in Reading on Friday, March 10 from 11.30am to 5.30pm.

The event will be presented by Jonty Hearnden, an antiques expert who has appeared on Antiques Roadshow and Cash In The Attic.

The ceremony will be attended by double Olympic rowing champion Heather Stanning, last year’s winner of the sports award and an ambassador for the 2017 awards, and fellow 2016 winner Fl Sgt Emma Rousell, of RAF Benson.

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