TWO people shared the top prize at this year’s Sue Ryder women of achievement awards.
The judges could not split Marian Lee, former director of services at the Chiltern Centre for disabled children in Henley, and Pam Warren, a rail safety campaigner who survived the Paddington rail crash in 1999, for the lifetime achievement award.
They were among five women and a team from the Henley area who were recognised for their sporting, creative, community and business achievements.
There were another six nominees from the area in the seven categories.
More than 150 people attended the annual awards ceremony and black–tie dinner, which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Marlow on Thursday last week.
Mrs Warren, from Whitchurch, survived the crash between two trains which killed 31 and injured more than 500.
She became known as the “Lady in the Mask” after suffering severe burns and needed a series of operations.
She helped found the Paddington Survivors Group that successfully lobbied government to improve rail safety.
Mrs Warren, who is now a professional speaker, said: “When I was nominated the first thing I said was, ‘I have not finished’, so watch this space.
“This award isn’t just for me, it’s for all 80 survivors who campaigned with me.
“I just get on with what I do, as do the other nominees, and we do not really expect any thanks.
“I would not want anyone to get to the end of their days and think, ‘I could have done things better’, which is how I felt when the crash happened.
“If people can use my experience to help them achieve their goals then I want to help.”
Mrs Lee, who lives in Benson, was honoured for her work at the Chiltern Centre, which offers care and support for disabled young people and their families. She retired last month after 20 years.
“It was really lovely to receive an award,” said Mrs Lee. “I did not expect it and it was an honour just to be nominated.
“I would not have got it without the support of my friends, colleagues and family.
“I had a really good 20 years with the Chiltern Centre and had a fabulous time. There were difficult times along the way but we always tried to give the best support possible.
“It was about the work with the children and the families and seeing young people flourish. I went through years of my life watching young people grow and that was what it was about for me.”
The other nominee in the category was Lady McAlpine who was shortlisted for her work supporting charities.
For the last two years she and her husband Sir William McAlpine have hosted a steam and vintage weekend at their Fawley Hill estate which was in aid of charities.
She is also involved in the Henley Summer Fireworks, which raises money for charity.
The community champion of the year for young people was Sarah Roberts, who launched the Millie’s Dream appeal in September 2013 to equip local primary schools with defibrillators.
The idea was inspired by her seven–year–old daughter Millie, who suffers from a lung and heart condition.
The charity has now installed 33 defibrillators across the Henley area, not just at schools but also in public areas for use by whole communities.
Miss Roberts, of Greys Road, Henley, said: “I accept this on behalf of everyone who has donated to the cause. The award is an appreciation of all that Millie’s Dream has strived to do, which is to provide life–saving equipment to schools and across the Henley area.”
She thanked the Henley Standard
for its support at the launch of the appeal.
Also nominated in this category was Maggie Atkinson, of Queen Street, Henley, who helped to organise the Music on the Meadows event at Mill Meadows in 2013 and 2014.
More recently she has launched Acoustic@Magoos, weekly masterclasses and mentoring sessions for young musicians at Magoos bar in Hart Street, Henley.
The businesswoman of the year award went to Sue Beales and Karen D’Arcy for their joint venture, Life at Nettlebed.
This started as a home furnishings business 10 years ago and is now an interior design company.
Mrs D’Arcy said: “We were humbled to even be nominated and it’s amazing to win. It’s the first award we have won as a business. It’s a pleasure to be part of our community. Thanks to Sue Ryder, which is a really inspirational organisation.”
The Henley Hawks women’s rugby team won the sportswoman of the year category.
Last season the team were undefeated, winning Championship South–West 2 and the Rugby Football Union Intermediate National Cup, with coach Alistair Mortimore. Number eight Anne Wheeler said: “On behalf of the team, I would like to thank our coach, as well as our husbands and partners, for putting up with us for many, many seasons.
“I think the award is a massive testament to our coach. He does his full–time job plus all the work for us every single day.
“Dealing with 20 women is a challenge and Ali getting us through the season unbeaten last year was quite an achievement.”
She added: “We were really surprised to win given the competition for the award plus we did not think they would have enough flowers for all of us but they did!”
The three other nominees included Henley Rowing Club’s junior four who were unbeaten in 2013/14.
The crew of Ciara Buckley, Krystina Steiger, Emily Pimlott and Alexis Perkins, plus cox Emma Lister won four major events, including Henley Women's Regatta and the British Junior Championships.
Sue Koomen, of Rotherfield Road, Henley, and Sam Brown, of Wood Lane, Sonning Common, were both nominated in the creative woman of the year category, which was won by Emma Stevenson, from Maidenhead, for her work with choirs across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey.
Mrs Koomen founded the Pig Barn in Stoke Row with her daughter Jessica in 2014. She turned a former pig barn into a a space for artists and other creative people to run courses. The classes are for people of all abilities.
Mrs Brown, a former singer, was nominated for her work with the International Ukulele Club of Sonning Common, which she formed after losing her voice after 30 years on the UK music scene. Three more clubs were started due to the popularity of the first one.
Tina Jacobs, from Shiplake, was nominated for volunteer of the year for her work with the Henley Youth Festival, one of the biggest volunteer–run events of its kind in the country. In particular she organised the junior proms where young musicians perform at the Kenton Theatre. Mrs Jacobs was co–chairwoman of the festival in 2010.
The category was won by Trishna Bharadia, from Marlow, for her work in raising awarness of multiple sclerosis, from which she suffers.
Sue Abbott, from Nettlebed, was nominated for community champion of the year.
She started Nettlebed luncheon club in 2012 when an elderly friend was not allowed to go to Sonning Common lunch club as he was not a resident. It now takes place monthly. Mrs Abbott is also a community first responder with St John Ambulance.
The category was won by Kathryn Rickman, from Cookham, who helps elderly people on their own, for example, by taking them to and from hospital appointments.
The event also included also included performances by four–piece vocal harmony group the Lacettes and members of Opera Anywhere.
A raffle and silent auction raised almost £8,000 for Sue Ryder. A pink sapphire and diamond pendant was sold for £900 in the auction. Other items on offer included a signed England Rugby shirt and a champagne tea at Buckingham Palace.
Tracy Hancock, head of hospice fund–raising for Sue Ryder, said: “We were delighted with how the evening went. We felt everyone enjoyed it and there was a nice atmosphere.
“It was also lovely to hear people talking so positively about the care that we provide and how many of them had been touched by Sue Ryder in some way.
“All the nominees were worthy and it was extremely difficult to choose the winners. They were all inspirational and it was great to celebrate their contributions to their local communities.”
The awards are sponsored by Invesco Perpetual, Dunsden industry caterers C H & Co and Higgs Group, publisher of the Henley Standard.