City’s charity heroes recognised on Honours List

Lynne McNicoll with her fundraising  team -  Karen Falconer, Shonagh Byrne and Anne McMenigall. Picture: Toby Williams
Lynne McNicoll with her fundraising team - Karen Falconer, Shonagh Byrne and Anne McMenigall. Picture: Toby Williams
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CHARITY heroes who have between them raised more than £10 million are recognised for their achievements in today’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Lynne McNicoll, founder of Edinburgh-based charity It’s Good 2 Give, which has raised more than £1m to support children with cancer and their families, is given an OBE.

Gordon Aikman, ''MND sufferer/campaigner, will appear in the Queen's birthday honours list. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Gordon Aikman, ''MND sufferer/campaigner, will appear in the Queen's birthday honours list. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Ann Maxwell, who set up the Muir Maxwell Trust to champion the cause of people with complex epilepsy and raised more than £8m, also receives an OBE.

Another OBE goes to Linda McDonald, who started the charity Malawi Underprivileged Mothers (MUMs).

And Gordon Aikman, who has campaigned and fundraised relentlessly since being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease last year, is awarded the British Empire Medal.

Other Lothian figures recognised in today’s list include Maisie author Aileen Paterson, new Scottish Tory chairman Rab Forman and two staff from Holyrood Palace.

Ms McNicoll, from Craiglockhart, said she was “astounded” to receive the honour, which comes hot on the heels of being crowned Fundraiser of the Year at the Evening News’ Local Hero Awards.

She founded It’s Good 2 Give five years ago, but had raised money for the Teenage Cancer Trust for years before that.

It’s Good 2 Give began by giving packs of essentials for hospital stays for young cancer patients and their parents. Now it is raising money to establish a respite centre, the Ripple Retreat, on the banks of Loch Venachar.

Ms McNicoll, who was diagnosed with breast cancer herself earlier this year, said the OBE was “a tremendous honour”.

She said: “It’s lovely, especially after last weekend’s Local Hero award. I’m quite shocked. It’s really nice to find that something you love doing is also recognised.

“I lead a unique team of volunteers, including our trustees, who have supported so many families through their cancer ordeal.

“We’ve got £1.1m in the bank, we’re going to start building next month and it should be ready by the beginning of next year. It will be a very special place – a chance for people to get away from the cancer routine. I think families will really appreciate it.”

Ms McNicoll has received many accolades for her work, including the Scottish Institute of Fundraising Volunteer Fundraiser of the year and the city council’s Will Y Darling Award for Good Citizenship in October 2014.

Ann Maxwell, whose son Muir has a rare and complex form of epilepsy, launched her charity in 2003 after she and husband Jonny struggled to find adequate support for him.

Since then the Muir Maxwell Trust has raised more than £8m to help other people in a similar situation. She said receiving an OBE was “phenomenal”.

“It’s a huge honour and a massive endorsement of all the work we have done. I’m thrilled.”

The trust’s latest fundraising initiative is the Cupcake Challenge – urging people to hold cupcake parties, seeking donations of £5 or more from friends.

It aims to raise £250,000 in the course of a year to help provide special epilepsy alarms, which alert parents to children’s nighttime seizures.

Ms Maxwell, from Dalkeith, said behind the scenes there was also a lot more lobbying going on. “We’re really concerned about the issue of care for children and young people damaged by epilepsy.

“We’re trying to highlight the lack of data the Scottish Government holds with regard to young adults with more profound learning disabilities.”

Midwife Linda McDonald set up MUMs in 2005 after hearing about and seeing photographs of a government-run maternity hospital in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.

Women were dying weekly and dead babies were left on an open shelf to be collected by their mothers to be taken back to the villages to be buried.

Over the years, the charity has contributed £100,000 to a new high-risk maternity wing, given £25,000 to help prevent mothers transmitting their HIV infection to their children and set up six feeding stations now feeding more than 600 pre-school children every day.

Ms McDonald said she was “blown away” by receiving her OBE.

“I’m just back from a visit to Malawi and things there are going really well – children are being fed, teachers are being trained and we’re helping build a new clinic.”

She estimated the charity had raised a total of around £600,000.

Mr Aikman’s BEM follows an honorary degree from Edinburgh University announced earlier this week and a host of other honours.

But he said the award was “incredible”.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “It all adds to the awareness for MND and the campaign.

“I want to share this honour with everyone living with MND. There are hundreds of people across Scotland and thousands across the UK bravely battling this disease. The honour is for them as well.”

He said the fundraising total was now £297,000 and he hoped to push it over the £300,000 mark next week, MND Awareness Week.

Also honoured is Cat Morrison, 37, from Broxburn, the most successful triathlete in Scottish history, who receives an MBE for services to sport and voluntary service.

She represented Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006, finishing top Scot on both occasions, before becoming a highly successful long-distance triathlete.

Ms Morrison said she was “gobsmacked” when she heard of the honour. She retired from her athletic career in January and now works with Edinburgh-based charity the Winning Scotland 
Foundation.

She said she and husband Richard would be celebrating today by taking part in the Capital Trail as part of Edinburgh Bike Week.

Lifetime supporter of the RNLI Ken Headley is also recognised with a BEM for his pioneering fundraising for the lifeboat charity in Dunbar.

Mr Headley took over the role of running the lifeboat station shop when it was threatened with closure due to a lack of volunteers and worked tirelessly with his wife Marie to bring in supporters and give the shop a new lease of life.

Then in 2012 he took on an even greater challenge in opening Scotland’s first high street RNLI lifeboat souvenir shop.

He has taken sales from less than £7000 in one year to turnover of more than £75,000 between the two shops.

Mr Headley said: “It’s an unexpected honour to receive this award.

“I couldn’t do it without my team of fantastic volunteers, so I’m accepting the award on their behalf. It’s a great recognition of all their hard work too.”

RNLI chief executive Paul Boissier said: “Ken’s achievements in Dunbar are the work of a man with a real passion for what he does in support of RNLI’s mission to save lives at sea.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com