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Fenland church organist, a sports coach, a community volunteer and county's chief fire officer among those named in Queen's New Year's Honours

Four Fenland women including a church organist and a sports coach are among those to be honoured in the Queen's New Year's Honours List.

Emma Evans, of March, who is the coach and founder of the Fen Tigers Goalball Club, which is based at the Neale-Wade Academy and are current European champions, is among those to be made a Member of the British Empire (MBE).

The mother of three has been given the award for services to goalball and to athletes with visual impairment.

Emma Evans (43778261)
Emma Evans (43778261)

Emma, whose sons all have visual impairment, set up Fen Tigers Goalball Club in January 2016 and has seen the team, which is made up of not only local players, but also those from further afield including Birmingham, go from strength to strength.

It fields teams in all tiers of the sport from novice to intermediate and elite and has been league winners in all three.

The team, which was set up after Emma's son Daniel, 30, got involved with the sport while at the Royal National College for the Blind, has qualified for the European super-league, which is the equivalent of football's champion league.

Val Ware (43778266)
Val Ware (43778266)

Emma not only plays the sport, she also coaches and referees.

But it is not only Emma's dedication to the team but also her work with the national body Goalball UK and also in encouraging civil servants to get involved with the sport, that prompted the honour.

Emma, whose other sons Dominic, 32, and Joe, 23, also play Goalball, said: "It is a great sport, it is the only sporting activity that is specifically designed for the visually impaired. But the great thing about it is anyone can play whether they are visually impaired or not as everyone has to wear blackout goggles. It means families can play together. I'm not visually impaired and I play and it is a great game.

Cambridgeshire's Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland. (43778276)
Cambridgeshire's Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland. (43778276)

"I really thought when I heard I was getting an MBE that it was a hoax. I had an email with a letter attached and I had to read it a couple of times. When it mentioned Goalball and helping visually impaired people I realised it was for me.

"But there are so many people involved in Goalball - volunteers who ensure matches can be played so this honour is for everyone involved in the sport.

"My hope is that it puts the sport on the map and encourages more people to get involved. We also need to constantly fundraise as we have no proper funding. I have helped raise £75,000 for the national body, but we as a team need around £4,000 a year to keep going so it would be great if any local businesses would be interested in sponsoring us - we are the European champions."

Emma who was informed of the honour some weeks ago was looking forward to telling her mum once the embargo on making it public passed this evening.

"She's an avid Royalist so the idea that I might get to meet the Queen or another member of the Royal family at some point will be great news to her. For me it is really humbling, and I'm still not sure I'm worthy of such an honour but I'm really proud," concluded Emma.

She is not the only person in Fenland to be receiving an MBE. Fellow March resident Anna Hallas, who is the national domestic manager of the Compass Group has also been recognised with the honour for services to the NHS.

And two women have been recognised with the the BEM (Medallists of the Order of the British Empire) for their community work.

The first is Janet Bays, 88, from Tydd St Mary, she has been given her honour for the work she has done as organist at the parish church - a role she has had since she was 16.

Her daughter Rachel said her mother, who is married to David and also has a son Adam,was extremely proud to have been recognised in this way and was looking forward to being invited to receive it.

Janet is also well-known in Wisbech where she was a music and singing teacher at the former Convent School. She is also a member of the Altar Guild.

Rachel said: "Mum has played at every service, wedding and funeral at Tydd St Mary Church since she was 16 and has enjoyed doing it. She was informed by email and a letter of her honour and she was both shocked and delighted to have been chosen."

The second is Valerie Ware from Tydd St Giles.

Val, 76, has been honoured for her community work in the village. She has been a member of the Tydd St Giles branch of the WI for over 40 years, holding various posts including branch president, secretary and treasurer over the yearsand has also been chairman of Isle of Ely Federation for eight years up until the most recent annual meeting when she stepped down.

Her other work within the community has included being a parish councillor for around 20 years. She has also been involved with the parish church and has been treasurer of the parochial church council for 30 years as well as singing in the choir.

Finally she has been involved with the village community centre for over 20 years organising regular fundraising dances and helping with the twice monthly lunches for the over sixties.

Val said: "It was a complete surprise when I found out I had been honoured. I had a phone call asking me if I was going to accept the honour because I hadn't responded to an email - that was the first I knew about it because the email had been sent to the wrong address.
"Of course I said yes, it is wonderful. I have no idea who nominated me but it is amazing that someone has thought about it and done it for me. Now I look forward to receiving the honour and to attending a Royal garden party to celebrate."

Finally Cambridgeshire's Chief Fire Officer, Chris Strickland, has been awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal.

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