THE co-founder of a charity that whisks poorly children away on magical Christmas holidays is to receive an MBE for her work.
Karen Jones, chairman of Neston-based Northern Lights, told the Standard it was both surreal and humbling to discover her name was on the 2018 Queen's New Year Honours list.
She said: “I was shocked to receive a letter from the Cabinet Office in November, which seemed to suggest that I was getting an MBE.
“I said nothing until the Honours List became public and I still can’t believe that I have been singled out. I am proud to be a part of such an amazing charity and delighted to have been recognised in this way.”
Karen, 55, has been chairman of Northern Lights for over 20 years and was a founding member of the charity in 1987.
It was set up in memory of her friend and co-committee member Alan Johnson’s son, Christopher, who died at the age of five after suffering with a brain tumour.
Every December, the charity takes a group of children aged between six and 11 on a short holiday to the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland to meet Father Christmas.
The charity celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017 with a trip to Disneyland in Paris, as well as the annual trip to Lapland, allowing them to take 30 children away.
The Disneyland trip meant they could take youngsters with disabilities on holiday for the first time as Lapland poses mobility issues.
To date the charity has allowed more than 500 children to go on a holiday of a lifetime and to top off the 30-year celebrations it has also just reached the milestone of raising £1 million.
The tireless work of Karen and her team is recognised by many people, from the families of the youngsters the charity helps to the doctors and nurses who look after them.
In a joint statement, nurses from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool said: “Northern Lights have allowed hundreds of very poorly children to receive a boost in their confidence and wellbeing which is hard to match.
“The children return home from Lapland invigorated and the parents are so thankful. For the few days, they can forget being the focus of hospital treatments and being enclosed in a sanitized environment.
“The children are exposed to new experiences, new friends, plenty of fresh (freezing) air and of course they meet Father Christmas. As nurses, we can testify to the difference in the children when they return for further treatment. All they want to talk about is their trip to Lapland and reminisce looking back at pictures, making the other nurses on our ward jealous!”
Dr Hilary Jones, the charity’s patron, added: “I have worked on mainstream British television for 25 years and during that time have covered the work of many charities. I have travelled abroad to witness the work of several of these charities and spent many hours involved with their activities domestically here in the UK. At times, I am humbled and inspired by everything they achieve.
“There is one standout charity however that has moved me more than all others, brought me to tears and reminded me more than anything else why I wanted to become a doctor myself in the first place and that charity is Northern Lights.”
Karen, of Church Lane, Neston, said receiving the honour as a representative of the charity was a privilege.
She said: “Wow, what an amazing way to end our 30th Anniversary year. I am surprised and delighted to have been awarded an MBE and feel very fortunate and honoured to have received it.
“I hope that having these three letters after my name will add power to our fundraising efforts and that we can continue to raise money for these wonderful holidays of a life-time. Volunteering for Northern Lights is a big part of my life, and being able to raise money for children with life-limiting illnesses is very important to me. I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for the support of my fellow volunteers at Northern Lights and within the local community, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all.”
To follow the work of Northern Lights Children’s Charity, join their Facebook page www.facebook.com/northernlights.childrenscharity