A mum from Potton has been awarded an OBE for services to children with special needs in the New Year’s Honours list 2018.

The Comet: Dave ThomasDave Thomas (Image: Archant)

Naomi Marek has been recognised for her work through children’s charity Sky Badger which has provided help and support to more than a million families who have children with disabilities or special educational needs.

Founder and chief executive Naomi told the Comet: “I’m completely shocked, but it’s fantastic. I’m really overwhelmed.

“It started when my son Max became really ill. He developed a nasty life-threatening form of epilepsy, as well as autism. I couldn’t find the help I needed.

“I thought it was the end of the world. Now I know that it was just the beginning of a new world for us both, and a rather lovely one at that!

“I decided to talk among some friends and that’s when I ended up putting a Facebook page together.

“It completely blew up and now we’re a charity that provides information and support in everything educational. That’s from medical needs and schooling to applying for more help and holidays. Everything you can possibly imagine.”

Sky Badger offers a varied range of services, such as finding disabled sports clubs, accessible family holidays, make-a-wish charities, and provides all this information for free on their website, along with a phone line.

The anonymity of the internet allows families to reach out for information about disability or special education needs when they do not want, or are not ready to handle, a face-to-face discussion.

When asked how she would advise families going through what she did with Max, Naomi said: “It’s completely life changing and you never expect it.

“The key thing is to find people who are going through the same thing. All the help is out there you’ve just got to find that first link.

“I keep thinking of all the mums and dads that I’ve met through Sky Badger over the last few years, working with them has given me the extraordinary joy and strength. Most importantly, my two boys have been the making of me. They are my heroes.”

Sky Badger’s patrons include Professor Stephen Hawking, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Lord Neuberger.

To find out more go to skybadger.co.uk.

A Sandy social work professional who helps assess new recruits has been awarded an MBE.

Dave Thomas was recognised for services to social work education and people with disabilities.

The 55-year-old works closely with Central Bedfordshire Council’s Academy of Social Work and Early Intervention, helping to assess both social work students and newly qualified social workers in their assessed and supported year in employment.

Dave also supports in a similar way in Adult Services.

He learned about his award when a letter dropped on his doormat three weeks before the official announcement.

He said: “It came as a surprise and I am very honoured. It’s lovely to receive an award. But more importantly, it’s great that social work is receiving positive public recognition. For me, I’m just an ‘old boy’ who is very lucky to do a job that I love and am passionate about.”