The chairman and founding member of a charity which has been taking sick children to see Santa in the far north for 30 years has received an MBE in the New Year Honours List.
Karen Jones, chairman of Neston based Northern Lights, has been recognised for her services to children with life limiting illnesses in the north west and north Wales.
Over three decades Karen has continually fundraised for Northern Lights after the charity was set up in 1987 in memory of her friend and co-committee member Alan Johnson's little boy Christopher, who lost his battle for life at the age of five after suffering with a brain tumour.
Every December the charity takes a group of children, aged between 6 and 11, on a short holiday to the Arctic Circle in Lapland to meet Father Christmas.
Karen has devoted her life to raising as much money as possible so that each year as many children as possible can enjoy a brief respite from their day-to-day struggles to visit the real Father Christmas and enjoy a first-class holiday along the way.
She is said to be ‘completely selfless’ in her approach putting the work of the charity before all else.
The time and attention to detail to make these trips happen cannot be underestimated say admirers but Karen continues to work tirelessly and relentlessly in fulfilling the charity’s aims.
Karen, who has been chairman of Northern Lights for over 20 years 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 said that receiving the honour as a representative of the charity was ‘a huge privilege’.
“Wow, what an amazing way to end our 30th anniversary year,” she said.
“I am surprised and delighted to have been awarded an MBE and feel very honoured to receive it.
“I hope that having these three letters after my name will add weight to our fundraising efforts and we continue to raise money for these wonderful holidays of a life-time.”
She added: “Being chairman of Northern Lights is a big part of my life and raising 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.”
Nurses from Alder Hey Children’s hospital commented: “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 sanitised environment.
“The children are exposed to new experiences, new friends, plenty of fresh although 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.”
2017 was the charity’s 30th anniversary and an additional trip to Disneyland in Paris was organised allowing 30 children in total to be taken away in Northern Lights’ ‘special anniversary year’.
The charity had never previously taken children with mobility problems away before due to the limiting conditions in Lapland so visiting Disneyland Paris during the Christmas celebrations enabled an additional 10 children to be taken on a trip.
Northern Lights hopes to repeat this trip again in future years opening up opportunities to provide more deserving children with magical experiences.
It has also revealed that to top off their 30 year celebration the charity has just achieved the magic milestone of raising £1m during their decades of fundraising and has taken over 500 children on wonderful holidays of a lifetime.
To follow the work of the children’s charity join their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/northernlights.childrenscharity .