Outstanding volunteer Eva Rich, of Saundersfoot, has received royal recognition as a Coronation Champion.

Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort have rewarded hundreds of the nation’s most extraordinary volunteers as part of the official Coronation celebrations in conjunction with Royal Voluntary Service, one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with volunteers supporting the NHS and thousands of vulnerable people in the community.

500 incredible volunteers have been recognised for their contributions and crowned Coronation Champions. This follows a call out to the nation to nominate their volunteer heroes. Almost 5,000 entries were received, with nominations made for individuals aged 14 up to 103.

The 500 Champions dazzled the judging panel with the impact of their work, their inspirational stories and unwavering commitment to volunteering.

On being told that she was a Coronation Champion, Eva Rich, of Saundersfoot, said: “The news was a complete surprise, and I am feeling very proud but also very humble.  I will be wearing my pin with pride, it’s due to arrive before the coronation.

“The Pembrokeshire Branch of Guide Dogs Cymru is a hard working group of volunteers who raise much needed funds to help with the training of guide dogs who provide visually impaired people with mobility and independence in safety.“

Eva, who was born with a vision impairment, became totally blind aged 13. She was partnered with her first guide dog, Parkie, at 19 and is now on her seventh dog, Nancy.

“I am currently working with my seventh guide dog, Nancy.  We currently have ten working partnerships in Pembrokeshire, a lady about to start training with her second guide dog, and three or four other people waiting for replacements.  A gentleman in Tenby also had his first guide dog just before Christmas.“

Eva Rich has been a guide dog owner for 61 years, and says she has always received wonderful help and support from the Organisation.  In 1975 she helped to set up the Pembrokeshire fundraising group.

“We have had a fundraising group in the Tenby/Saundersfoot area for over 40 years,“ she added, “and I have always been the Secretary/Organiser.  I would like to say a huge thank you for all our wonderful volunteers, guide dog trainers, puppy raisers and fosterers, together with the general public for all their help and support.”

With the support of Her Majesty The Queen Consort, a passionate advocate of volunteering and President of Royal Voluntary Service, the Coronation Champions Awards were launched to recognise exceptional volunteers from across the country at this momentous point in history. 

Other Coronation Champions include Georgia McAllister, a stroke survivor, who has overcome many challenges and now, as a Royal Voluntary Service volunteer, uses her own experience to support, inspire and give hope to fellow stroke survivors. 

Coronation Champion Margaret Edet has been awarded for her work with Family Unit Trust, a charity committed to raising awareness of cancer in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and supporting families impacted by cancer. Margaret became an advocate for the early detection of cancer after her family was impacted by the devastating disease.

The awards also sought to celebrate the next generation of volunteers, and the rising stars of volunteering aged 14-18, have been recognised as ‘Young Coronation Champions’. This includes 17 year-old Conor Warren from Ilfracombe who founded Spark UK at just 14 years old. 

Under the leadership of Conor, the volunteer-led mental health CIC helps ‘spark’ conversations amongst teenagers around mental health.  In the past three years, the Spark UK team of six volunteers (all aged 14-18) have reached thousands of students across the country and hundreds of schools have signed up to use their resources and lesson plans. 

All 500 of the volunteers selected as the nation’s Coronation Champions will now be invited to attend one of the official Coronation celebrations, such as the Windsor Castle Coronation Concert or a Coronation Garden Party. They will also receive a specially designed, official Coronation Champions pin and a certificate signed by Their Majesties.

The Coronation Champions Awards invited people across the UK to nominate their local volunteering heroes who are going the extra mile. Nominations were made across eight award categories; supporting older people; supporting young people and children; crisis and welfare; community; sports, culture, and heritage; health and care; sustainability and the environment; and animal welfare. 

Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service said: We were completely blown away by the response to the Coronation Champions Awards and the huge volume of amazing nominees put forward. Our judges had a tough job selecting just 500 Champions from an array of thousands of inspirational individuals, who all deserve to be recognised and commended. 

“Each of our Coronation Champions displayed a commitment and contribution that far exceeds any expectation and we’re overjoyed to honour and thank them during this exciting point in history.”

 As well as receiving the Royal stamp of approval, the awards are backed by a star-studded list of ambassadors and supporters. 

Dame Judi Dench, Coronation Champions Awards supporter, said: “I would like to offer each and every Coronation Champions volunteer my warmest congratulations on this incredibly well-deserved award. I hope that they feel the utmost pride for all that they do to help our communities thrive. I for one am incredibly grateful to them.”

Felicity Kendal CBE, Coronation Champions Awards Ambassador, said: “I realise that this award might even feel like a surprise to many of the Coronation Champions, as I know how terribly modest volunteers can be. But I hope that they wear their pin badges with pride and remember how extremely grateful we are for their support.”

Nadiya Hussain MBE, Coronation Champions Awards Ambassador, said: “A huge congratulations to the Coronation Champions Award recipients, hearing the stories of volunteers has touched my heart and I want to say a huge thank you to all the lovely volunteers who give their time to helping others across the country, every day.”

Royal Voluntary Service is immensely grateful for the generous support of brand partners Simplyhealth for supporting the Health and Care category, Sky through its Sky Cares programme, for supporting the Community category and Petplan, for supporting the Animal Welfare category.

Those feeling inspired to try volunteering themselves are encouraged to take part in The Big Help Out on Monday, May 8. The Big Help Out is another official Coronation project, aiming to encourage newcomers to volunteering, bring communities together and create a lasting volunteering legacy from the Coronation weekend.