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Three volunteers to get royal thank-you
BETWEEN them they have brightened up dozens of lives, thanks to decades of voluntary work.
Now Amanda Richens, John Hutchinson and Nan Draper have been invited to meet the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at a ceremony in St James’s Palace as a thank-you.
Thousands of over-60s were nominated as Diamond Champions, but just 80 have been invited to next month’s palace reception.
The awards are run by charity WRVS, formerly the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service.
Mrs Richens, 61, of Divinity Road, East Oxford, is being honoured for her work at the skatepark in Meadow Lane, Iffley.
She became involved 11 years ago through her son, Jack, a keen skateboarder, and has since opened the skatepark every day, carried out maintenance and repairs and acted as a liaison between the young skaters and the wider community.
She said: “It’s nice to be recognised but when you see the group of people you are with, you realise it’s people like me holding the country together and you feel even more special.
“I’m quite passionate that there be provision for 11- to 17-year-olds, kids who are too old for the playground and too young for the pub.”
She added: “Basically, I had the time, and I believe in getting up and getting on with it.
“I don’t make a fuss about it, just do what I can.”
Jack is now chief executive of the Oxford Wheels Project, which is in the process of replacing wooden ramps with a permanent skatepark.
He said: “If it wasn’t for her, the whole of the wheels project would not exist.
“She’s the linchpin of Oxford skateboarding – she’s everybody’s mum.”
Mr Hutchinson, 75, of Abingdon, started volunteering for learning disabilities charities after the birth of his son, Darryl, now 42, who has learning disabilities and autism.
That includes acting as chairman for the support group at the Charter Day Centre, chairman of South West Oxfordshire Mencap, work with the Ridgeway Partnership and running a disabled swimming club at Radley College.
Mr Hutchinson, whose son still lives with him, said the work gave him satisfaction.
He said: “I feel this award is not only for what I do, but a reward for what everybody does within Oxfordshire to help improve people’s lives with learning disabilities.
“It’s important that I carry on and it’s also important that I recognise there are not that many people who will come forward. If I was to stand down, I am not convinced we would be able to get other people to take it up.”
Mrs Draper, 80, from Marcham, has been a volunteer for organisations, including the Wantage and Grove Lions Club, Trinity Church, Abingdon, and the Oxford Ostomy Fellowship, since retiring from nursing in 1989.
She said she was “gobsmacked” to be chosen and added: “I get as much out of it as I give, to be quite honest.There’s so many people who do as much as me, even more.”