Ryedale women make it an honours hat-trick

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The founder of a charity which has grown to become the leading resource of its kind for people across the world has been appointed an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

Elaine Dowell, of Sinnington, is not alone in receiving the honour in Ryedale, however, with Jean Thorpe, for services to wildlife rescue, and Jean Kershaw, a stalwart of Helmsley Arts Centre, also becoming Members of the British Empire.

Elaine was appointed MBE for her work with the Encephalitis Society.

Alongside husband Keith, she launched the Malton-based charity 20 years ago when their seven-year-old son, Andrew, was struck down by the condition. Encephalitis, an infection of the brain, left Andrew with learning difficulties, epilepsy and problems with behaviour.

With no information or support for her son’s problems, Elaine formed The Encephalitis Support Group, began producing information and a support service for families in the same situation, and oversaw the charity’s growth during her 18-year association.

Today, it is the leading resource of its kind in the world, boasting high-profile supporters such as Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington, and was recently given £500,000 by The October Club to fund its work for the next three years.

Ava Easton, chief executive of The Encephalitis Society, said: “Elaine’s work began 20 years ago when she founded The Encephalitis Support Group. Little did she know that she had laid the foundation for what would become the only resource of its kind in the world for those affected by Encephalitis.

“Although Elaine has now retired from her role within the charity, her legacy will live on, and continue to bring hope to thousands of people around the world.”

Jean Thorpe, of Norton, is known to many as leading the Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

For the past three decades, she has been the first port of call for people in the district - and further afield - when an injured wild animal is found and needs to be nursed back to health, caring for anything from badgers through to a bird of preys, hedgehogs or barn owls.

Working closely with the police, RSPCA, local vets and other organisations, Jean is always in demand for her services and is frequently called out to examine sites where badger setts have been interfered with, providing evidence in prosecutions against those responsible.

Jean Kershaw has been involved with Helmsley Arts Centre for 30 years - volunteering for two to three days per week - and its one of the four original trustees of the arts centre building when it was acquired with the view of turning it into an arts venue.

She served as the voluntary Deputy Director of the arts centre, responsible for music and dance, from 1997 to 2012.

A spokesman for Helmsley Arts Centre said: “Mrs Kershaw¹s commitment to every aspect of the life of the Arts Centre has been exemplary, but her special contribution has been in the development of its music and dance activities. Over 20 years, Helmsley Arts Centre has built a reputation as an excellent venue for classical, folk and jazz music.

This is entirely due to Jean Kershaw¹s work. She has maintained a very high standard in selecting musicians for the programme, and encouraging the best to return.

This includes musicians of national or international standing but also, importantly, many talented young musicians from the region.”

The New Year’s Honours list is announced on New Year’s Day, as part of the British Honours System, where new members of orders of chivalry and other honours are named.

The awards are usually presented by the reigning monarch, or her vice-regal representative. Honours have been awarded since at least 1890, when a list of Queen Victoria’s awards was published by the London Gazette on 2 January.




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