A life saving charity is coming to a top food festival in its bid to raise an extra £600,000.
Wales Air Ambulance is hoping donations at Hamper 2012 will lift off as a fitting tribute to one of its best-ever supporters and volunteers, Heather Davies.
Mother-of-two Heather, from Llantysilio, devoted much of her life to helping others and raising money for charity, and sadly died of cancer last August when she was only 60.
Husband Gwyn, 67, who runs his butchers business in Castle Street, Llangollen, has been a staunch supporter, not just of Wales Air Ambulance, but the Llangollen Food and Drink Festival – now known as Hamper 2012 – and will be at the 15th festival in the Pavilion on October 20 and 21.
As usual it will provide an essential fund-raising venue for Wales’ vital air ambulance service which has flown a staggering 16,000 missions since it was launched on St David’s Day in 2001.
A close friend of Gwyn and Heather, Wales Air Ambulance pilot, Martin Darlington paid tribute to Heather.
He said: “Heather was an inspirational volunteer who was always happy to give up her spare time in order to help Wales Air Ambulance by attending bucket collections and cheque presentations.
“Heather donated something very precious and extremely valuable to the charity, her time. Since her start in 2003 she attended countless events on our behalf, potentially collecting thousands of pounds worth of donations for Wales Air Ambulance.”
Gwyn, who still lives in Llantysilio, where his son Mark, 40, runs the family farm as well as working as an HGV driver, said: “Heather had a passion for helping others and was a prolific fund-raiser for a huge number of charities for more than 20 years. She did her first parachute jump, along with Fiona and four others, at Swansea in 1992 when she raised nearly £2,000 for Wales Air Ambulance.
The couple’s daughter Fiona, 37, has a managerial post with Tesco in Welshpool.
This year, Wales Air Ambulance has launched the campaign Leap into Action, appealing to supporters to help in the upgrade of the charity’s third helicopter. It needs to raise an extra £600,000 to introduce a new generation aircraft. (Visit the campaign site at leap.walesairambulance.com for more details)
Heather’s unstinting work for Wales Air Ambulance was so appreciated that at her funeral in Llantysilio in September last year pilot Martin and several members of Wales Air Ambulance were amongst the mourners and the helicopter made a fly past.
Every year she would raise money for Children In Need. Her work for the Shooting Star charity, to provide specialist cancer treatment care for woman at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, prompted an invite for her and Gwyn to attend the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.
When her sister-in-law, Shirley Davies, died of cancer at 44 years of age, leaving three children behind, Heather set about helping Tenovus cancer charity. Tragically Shirley’s daughter Gwenan died in a car crash when she was just 24 years old and her husband, Gwyn’s brother Berwyn, was to die when he was only 55.
Heather and Gwyn would make an annual four and a half hours walk from the Ponderosa to raise money for various charities. And over the years she raised thousands of pounds.
“She helped Llangollen Cottage Hospital and served on the Patients Trust. She helped NSPCC, Gobowen Hospital and so many others. The last one she did was Help for Heroes last year. She would pick out a charity and she had such a way of persuading people to help,” said Gwyn.
Every mission flown by Wales Air Ambulance costs £1,600 and the annual cost of maintaining its three helicopter presence in Wales – at Caernarfon, Welshpool and Swansea – is £6m, which has to be found from public donations.
But with its ability to reach anywhere in Wales, no matter how inaccessible, within 20 minutes, it means casualties have a fighting chance of getting to hospital within the ‘Golden Hour’ – the first 60 minutes after trauma which can be crucial to survival.
“We never had cause to use the air ambulance as a family but we knew people who had needed its help. You never know when the air ambulance will be needed and that’s the beauty of it, it can cover anywhere in Wales in 20 minutes,” said Gwyn.
“I’ll be at the food festival for the fifth time this year. It’s a good shop window and I really enjoy it. Wales Air Ambulance is the chosen charity for the festival and although I’m not as involved now without Heather, I’ve told them I’m here if they want me.”
One of the main driving forces behind the festival is businessman Colin Loughlin, Chair of the local committee that runs the event, supported by the rural development agency, Cadwyn Clwyd.
Colin is delighted that they are able to help the Wales Air Ambulance Service raise money to sustain the vital service.
He said: “The Air Ambulance service has been going for more than 10 years and in that time they have saved countless lives.
“They do an absolutely brilliant job and I am sure that festival-goers will give generously. After all, it is a service that any of us could need it at some stage.”