With just 40 days to go until the Olympic Torch comes to Chester, The Chronicle continues to profile the community heroes who have been chosen to carry the flame through the city streets next month. Carmella De Lucia reports
IF MARGARET McKeegan could add up all the money she’s raised for good causes over the years, she’d probably be a millionaire.
For the past three decades the 78-year-old grandmother has organised events to raise money for blood pressure monitors in hospitals, cardiac rehab units, disabled people and various charities around the Chester area.
This May when the Olympic Torch comes to Chester, Margaret will carry it with pride for everyone she has helped, in particular ‘my boys’ – the brave soldiers whose bleak days she has brightened up with the thousands of ‘goodie boxes’ she has sent them.
Margaret, a former nurse of Francis Street, Chester, receives regular letters from soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, telling her how much they appreciate the boxes she sends them that are filled with love, treats and top quality food.
“I shop around to get only the highest quality food for my boys,” says Margaret, who was nominated by her friend Pam Moyle.
“I never buy value items because I want them to have the very best.
“I don’t do it for myself, this is not for me, it is for the lads who have lost people out there and giving them something to smile about.
“I get so many letters from those lads, telling me how they’d come back from being shot at by the Taliban when my parcel arrives and it makes their day,” she added.
“Hearing how grateful they are means everything to me.”
Margaret is also collecting equipment for the disabled. If you have any equipment you could donate, call Margaret on 01244 316573.
RACHEL Smith from Hoole is a firm believer in putting in hard work to achieve something.
At the same time as balancing a successful marketing career, Rachel spent a decade representing Great Britain in Dragon Boat Racing
In those 10 years, she has won 25 world and European medals, and set two world records.
But the real challenge came in 2008, when with a friend, the 42-year-old battled 76 gruelling days of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean to raise funds for breast cancer.
They survived a terrifying capsize just 300 miles from the finish line in Antigua and braved rough storms and waves.
But raising a staggering £65,000 for Breast Cancer Care and earning 25 medals meant every minute was more than worth it.
Rachel’s experience taught her that winning at competitive sport can only come with a real understanding of teamwork, staying focused during tough times, and using techniques such as visualisation to achieve goals.
It was this thinking that compelled her to take part in motivational speaking, which she came to love.
During her talks, she brought alive her Atlantic experience, drawing on her marketing and business knowledge to ensure that the messages arising from her sporting adventures had resonance as well as practical application.
Rachel enjoyed it so much that it led her to join forces with the Prince's Trust, encouraging young people to make the most of opportunities and work towards their goals.
“I never really excelled at school, and definitely not at sport so it’s great to talk to young people and tell them what someone who was pretty much useless at sport at school has ended up with a place on the Great Britain team,” says Rachel, who was nominated to be a torchbearer by her partner.
And she’s not stopping there. For the past eight months she has been volunteering with Cheshire Search and Rescue, helping to look for missing people, which she describes as ‘an amazing experience’.
“Carrying the flame is so exciting, it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will never again happen in my lifetime,” Rachel adds.
“Everyone has an amazing story to tell and it’s great that Chester can celebrate its local people who have done inspiring things; sometimes I think we feel a bit detached from London up here so I am really excited.”