Wales

New Year Honours: 13,500 woolly hats for troops earns BEM

  • 31 December 2013
  • From the section Wales
Soldiers in Afghanistan wearing Tina Selby's hats
Image caption Over the years, Tina Selby, from Penarth, has received special requests from soldiers, including 24 bobble hats for an army disposal unit.

A woman who has sent more than 13,500 woolly hats to service personnel in Afghanistan has been given a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours.

Tina Selby, 43, from Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, recruited a small army of knitters after hitting on the idea.

She said: "It does seem to make a difference - I've had loads of thank you letters and photos."

Her honour is among nearly 50 given out to people who have contributed to their communities across Wales.

Image caption Tina Selby at first to planned to send out 500 hats but has gone on to post more than 13,500

Mrs Selby founded the voluntary organisation hats4heroes after realising there was a need to include a woolly hat in each of the welfare boxes she was already sending out to troops in Afghanistan.

She planned to send only 500 hats at first but within weeks the front room of her home was swamped with knitwear sent to her from around the UK.

This year was the first since 2010 that she and husband Brian have had enough room to put up a Christmas tree as Mrs Selby winds down the appeal ahead of the anticipated troop withdrawal.

In that time, her organisation has sent thousands of hand-made hats - each containing a chocolate bar - to Army, Navy and RAF personnel involved in the UK military deployment.

She said: "I could not have done it without everyone helping out. They are going to be quite touched.

"It's a practical way of supporting the forces. They say they wear them all the time, when doing PE, in bed - anytime.

Image caption Stuart Nixon walked across London for nine days to raise MS Society cash

"I've even had a member of the forces call in on his way to visit his mother-in-law in Barry to say thank you."

Other people honoured for their work in the community include Stuart Nixon, 49, from Newport, who is vice-chair and a trustee of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

A clinical services co-ordinator for Aneurin Bevan Health Board, the father-of-three has had multiple sclerosis (MS) since the age of 18.

He has been a volunteer at the MS Society for 17 years. The disability advisory group he has set up at the local health board is seen as a model of best practice across Wales.

Despite only having mobility in one leg and having used a wheelchair for 15 years, in October he walked 60km (37 miles) around London over nine days using a bespoke walking frame to raise more than £60,000 to mark the MS Society's 60th anniversary.

'Gobsmacked'

Mr Nixon was nominated by MS Society's former chief executive, Simon Gillespie, who said: "The range, extent and deep impact of Stuart's contribution in his work life, and through volunteering for the MS Society at the highest level, has been exceptional and sustained, benefiting those who have MS and the wider community."

Media captionMargaret Williams said receiving the MBE was "bizarre"

Another person awarded an MBE is Margaret Williams, 64, from Flint, Flintshire, founder of the charity North Wales Superkids.

From its first year in 1999, it has grown from giving presents to 150 disadvantaged youngsters at Christmas to more than 1,400.

In 2002, Superkids was presented with the Queen's Golden Jubilee Award and in 2008 Mrs Williams was awarded Citizen of the Year.

As well as Christmas gifts, the charity organises trips to the pantomime and craft clubs.

"We're all volunteers and it keeps us out of mischief," said Mrs Williams.

"I'm absolutely thrilled, gobsmacked and over the moon but I find it strange to think somebody thinks what I do is good, but I know the difference it makes.

"I had an email from a social worker this morning who said the difference it made to two children referred to us."

James Lee, 64, of Holyhead, Anglesey, worked at the former Anglesey Aluminium site, which closed in February this year, for 25 years.

In 2003 he volunteered for the Communities First Partnership (CF) programme which seeks to improve the communities and life chances of people living in the most deprived communities in Wales.

Pigeon fancier

Mr Lee quickly became the founding chair of Holyhead Town Ward CF and then Plas Cybi CF which won awards for its pioneering approach to community regeneration. He is appointed MBE.

Swansea-based Dr Gerald Lewis, chair of governors at Swansea Metropolitan University, is appointed MBE for his services to education.

His citation describes him as a "positive force" in the merger with the University of Wales and Trinity St David and a "valuable member" of the University of Wales Council's Research, Enterprise and Innovation Committee.

Pigeon fancier David Hughes, 75, of Wrexham, has combined his love of the sport with raising cash for Hope House Children's Hospice in Wrexham.

He received a BEM for raising more than £86,000 for the hospice in just over 12 years, including by regular pigeon auctions which attract pigeon fanciers from all over the UK.

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