A WOMAN who co-founded the Henley Regatta for the Disabled was among the winners at this year’s Sue Ryder Women of Achievement awards.
Jane Holmes, from Ruscombe, was joint winner of the achievement in the community award at Friday’s awards ceremony.
Fl Sgt Emma Rousel, who is based at RAF Benson, was awarded the women in services title.
The pair were among 19 women from the Henley area nominated in seven categories of this year’s awards.
More than 200 people attended the ceremony and three-course lunch at Trunkwell Mansion House, near Reading.
Mrs Holmes, who shared her title with Ailsa Bosworth, who founded the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, was nominated by her husband Jasper, with whom she has a daughter, Kitty, with cerebral palsy.
She set up her first charity, Peapods, in 2002 to support children with physical disabilities, and later help start the regatta to give disabled people access to the Thames.
In 2014, following seven years of fund-raising, she opened Our House, a purpose-designed centre for families with disabled children in Wokingham. The charity now has more than 400 families on its books.
Mrs Holmes, who attended the ceremony with her mother Jean Cox, said: “I was really surprised to have won.
“I put a lot of hard work into setting up those charities and it’s wonderful to get recognition.
“The charity I’m best known for in Henley is the regatta for the disabled and it’s lovely to have my efforts rewarded.
“All the other nominees were so impressive. I was so humbled to be one of the winners because all of the stories were amazing.
“I’m very grateful to Sue Ryder, I had a lovely day and every last detail of the event was perfect.”
Fl Sgt Rousel combines charity fund-raising and volunteering with her duties at RAF Benson, which include looking after the catering operation and the junior ranks’ mess.
She also coaches and manages the RAF Benson team that takes part in culinary competitions against other military bases and volunteers at the watercress beds nature reserve in Ewelme.
Fl Sgt Rousel has performed at Benson’s remembrance Sunday parade and raised £4,000 for the Prince’s Trust after shaving her head to create wigs for cancer patients.
She was nominated by a colleague, Sgt Lee Tomas.
Fl Sgt Rousel said: “I didn’t know much about the awards until Lee told me he’d nominated me but I do all this stuff because I enjoy what I do.
“It’s brilliant to win and I had a good chat with the other ladies. Hearing what they had all done made me feel like I had no chance at all so it was a real surprise to win.”
The event raised £15,000 on the day for Sue Ryder through tickets sales and an auction run by Watlington auctioneer Simon Jones.
Tracey Hancock, head of fund-raising for Sue Ryder’s Duchess of Kent and Nettlebed hospices, said: “It was a wonderful day and we warmly congratulate all the nominees and winners.
“It is so nice to be able to recognise the contribution so many women make so selflessly while also celebrating the incredible care Sue Ryder provides for people living with life limiting conditions.
“We are very grateful to all our sponsors and to everyone who supported the event.”
The awards were sponsored by Invesco Perpetual, CH&Co and Higgs Group, publisher of the Henley Standard.