Stalwart 104-year-old dog walker among eight charity helpers chosen for award

A centenarian dog walker and two prolific foster carers are among eight RSPCA volunteers chosen to be Coronation Champions as part of King Charles III’s May festivities.


The excellent eight were among a field of several thousand volunteers nominated by a host of charities. They have now been whittled down to 500 champions in recognition of their sterling voluntary service across the country and within their communities.


RSPCA volunteers Sally Field, Tracey Hamilton, Mollie Swadkins, Maureen Austin, Oz Locke, John and Cora Kitchen and Chelsea Carratt were selected by a high-profile panel of judges and will receive a specially-designed commemorative pin badge and certificate. They will also be offered the opportunity to attend events taking place to mark the Coronation, including the star-studded concert on May 7 and garden party.


The Coronation Champions is a competition supported by Her Majesty the Queen Consort and is part of the official Coronation programme, which runs alongside the large volunteering initiative The Big Help Out on May 8.


At the grand older age of 104, Sally (pictured with the late Paul O’Grady at an Animal Hero Awards ceremony) has had to wind down her regular dog walking sessions at RSPCA Millbrook Animal Centre in Chobham, Surrey. But the RSPCA wanted to ensure the dedicated volunteer – who has been a fixture at the centre for 42 years – was given the recognition she deserves.

Sally used to walk up to 10 dogs a week at Millbrook and pitched in helping at the centre’s cafe and with its fundraising activities.

Maureen (pictured) is also a volunteer at Millbrook where she has helped with the cattery’s busy rehoming programme for 14 years. She is a prolific fosterer of the centre’s cats and around 200 felines have passed through her experienced hands over the years. The 78-year-old takes the most nervous cats and provides a caring touch – including hand-rearing kittens – to get them ready for rehoming.


“It’s a tremendous honour to be nominated as I enjoy the work so much,” said Maureen, who also trains new volunteers at the cattery. “I’m so pleased that Millbrook trusts me with the cats. They can be so frightened and it is so nice to get them ready for a new home.


“We don’t always know the cats’ full back stories, but it is so satisfying to help them. I’m looking after Hank at the moment and when he first came to me he spent a week under the bed. But I spend time with each one and they soon feel more secure. I have a room set aside for them; sometimes it’s a pair, sometimes a mother and her kittens, but I enjoy looking after them all.”


Tracey is a dog fosterer at RSPCA West Hatch Animal Centre, where she takes on many of the centre’s most difficult cases, providing each canine with a loving environment while they are rehabilitated ready to find a permanent home. She fosters dogs with serious behavioural and health problems, including those that are affected by disabilities.

Mollie (pictured) helps to run an animal welfare course at the RSPCA Education Centre in Birmingham, while she also serves as a community engagement volunteer to support the delivery of the programme to young people and vulnerable groups.

Oz Locke is an animal rescue volunteer (ARV) and volunteer coordinator who as well as collecting and transporting injured wildlife supports other volunteers and helps with the delivery of the charity’s volunteer programme.

Using his technical expertise, Oz, who is from Cardiff, has helped the RSPCA analyse statistics linked to the work of the animal rescue volunteers to identify trends so as to aid the charity’s decision making.

John and Cora Kitchen (pictured transporting a puffin back to his natural habitat in the Farne Islands) are animal rescue volunteers based in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. While Chelsea Carratt, who lives in West Yorkshire, is a microvolunteer who is signed up as an RSPCA ‘Wildlife Friend’.image.png

RSPCA volunteer experience partner Sarah McKeon said: “We are so excited that eight of our volunteers have been chosen. The nominations are such a good spread of all the different types of volunteering roles and opportunities that we offer across the RSPCA.

“It’s really great that our volunteers are recognised in this way as the RSPCA couldn’t function without our fantastic volunteers. Every day they provide vital support to help us carry out our mission to prevent cruelty, promote kindness and alleviate the suffering of animals.

“Animal welfare is so important to people in the UK – and the high standards of welfare in this country is thanks in no small part to volunteers like these eight who do so much for animals.”

Meanwhile, the RSPCA is continuing to recruit a new kind of volunteer as part of the Big Help Out on May 8. People are being urged to sign up as ‘Wildlife Friends’ so as to offer as little or as much of their time as they can to undertake some simple ideas to help wildlife on the doorstep.

For example, volunteers can:image.png

Organise a litter pick

Plant wildlife-friendly plants in gardens and window boxes

Build nest boxes for wild animals

Put food out for hedgehogs or create a hedgehog highway

Get together with their neighbours to start a wildlife project

Join ‘No mow May’ and make a habitat for wildlife in their gardens

Recreate wildlife-friendly ideas from RHS Chelsea

Signpost RSPCA advice about wildlife .in online groups

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “Wildlife is in crisis – but everyone has the power to help save the nation’s wild animals, by joining the RSPCA for the Big Help Out. We help thousands of wild animals every year through our officers and our animal rescue volunteers, and we also rely on the public to support us with sick and injured wildlife, so we can reach as many animals as possible. By working together, we can all do our bit to help the wild animals who share our communities.

“From planting wildlife-friendly plants, to building nest boxes, and organising litter picks, we are calling on people across the country to become Wildlife Friends to make our nation a safer place for wild animals. Volunteers make such a difference to charities and to society – and we could not help the people and animals we do without the support of our 10,000 incredible volunteers.

“Almost 600 volunteers have already pledged to do their bit for animals, as part of the Big Help Out. As the nation comes together for the King’s Coronation, it’s an amazing opportunity to do something new, while making a huge difference for wild animals, and their welfare.”


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