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Postmaster tackles Dragon’s Back Race in aid of lifesaving charity

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A BANCYFELIN postmaster has raised an incredible £5,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance – by taking on the world’s toughest mountain race.

Father-of-two Dean Thomas set himself the challenge of competing in the Dragon’s Back Race, which saw him run from Conwy Castle to Cardiff Castle in just six days – a distance of 380km, or 1.5 marathons a day.

Dean, who also runs the outreach post offices in Llangain and Llansteffan, said: “In the last few weeks leading up to the event more and more people were asking if I was doing it for a charity, so with a week to go when the race was all systems go, and I was fit to go we decided to raise funds for Wales Air Ambulance.

“We chose the Wales Air Ambulance as it’s a locally based charity which was important to us, it’s a relevant cause to all as none of us know when we could need the service. It hit home to us when the Wales Air Ambulance landed opposite the shop at the beginning of the year when one of our villagers needed their help.

“It was ironic really that on route to the race registration I was caught up in traffic behind a serious road collision where a motorcyclist required the assistance of the air ambulance, reaffirming our charity choice for the amazing work and service they provide.”

In December 2020, the charity achieved its aim of operating a 24/7 service. Wales now has access to the service’s Emergency Department-standard critical care around the clock and to keep the helicopters in the air, the charity needs to raise £8 million every year.

Whilst Dean concentrated on the huge task ahead, his wife Anthea, who also works at the post office and shop in Bancyfelin, and their two daughters, Ellie and Megan, focussed on the fundraising.

Dean initially hoped to raise £1,000 for the lifesaving charity, but quickly smashed that target.

He said: “Anthea and the girls did all of the fundraising really, I just did the running. We only started the week before the event and the response was incredible.

“It was just word of mouth from there really. We’re quite lucky in a way that we see a high volume of people within the shop and post offices. I think we expected to raise a thousand pounds due to us starting it so late, so we were blown away with people’s generosity and support for the charity.” 

Dean – who took part in his first half marathon aged just 13 – is no stranger to pushing his body to the limits, having previously completed nine marathons, which included three London Marathons and five Snowdonia Marathons.

He has participated in the International Snowdon Race, which is a race to the summit of Snowdon and back to Llanberis 15 times and the Brecon Beacons’ Fan Dance. Dean has also featured in the Ninja Warrior UK series 4.

As Dean took on the ultra running journey down the spine of Wales, he was hit with an injury on day five.

He added: “I got injured and I still had over 50 miles to go, every step was really painful and that pain doubled going downhill. I saw the race doctor on the last morning who told me then that the injury I had could be a stress fracture or could lead to one, so she taped my shins up and that’s all that could be done – other than stopping and resting, but that wasn’t an option!”  

Pupils from Ysgol Bancyfelin threw their support behind Dean and followed his progress each day. The children made daily video updates of his progress which they shared on social media and wished him luck throughout his gruelling challenge.

Dean had no contact with his wife Anthea and daughters during the week, added: “I was unaware of all the support I was receiving during the race as I had no contact with anyone until I arrived in Cardiff on the final day of the race. I was in my own little bubble for the week so all I had to focus on was getting to Cardiff.

“I was amazed to hear how many people were tracking me and how much they enjoyed it too, some family members and friends spent hours of their week watching a dot on a map tracking me.” 

Dean was delighted when he arrived back home to Bancyfelin to a surprise welcome home from the villagers and the school children. He said: “The welcome home was amazing and completely unexpected, I said to Anthea and the girls at the time, ‘what’s all this for? I’ve only been for a run’.  I couldn’t get my head around it and didn’t know the school children had been following me all week.”

Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Dean has raised an amazing £5,000 for our lifesaving charity by completing the exhausting Dragon Back Race.

Despite suffering an injury on day five, that didn’t stop Dean from completing his challenge, which is incredible. He showed sheer determination to continue the remaining 50 miles.

“Wales Air ambulance regularly attends life and limb-threatening emergencies in Carmarthenshire. Donations like this are vital and we know how important our service is, particularly for rural areas. By keeping our helicopters in the air we can continue to take the emergency department to the patient, saving time and saving lives. Thank you to everyone who supported Dean in his fundraiser or donated to our Charity. You’re all helping save lives across Wales.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance.

These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com. 

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.

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Vet completes epic 980 mile cycle challenge from Land’s End to John O’Groats in aid of charities

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A CARMARTHENSHIRE vet has raised over £8,000 by taking on the mammoth challenge of cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance and The DPJ

Foundation.

Cath Tudor a farm vet at ProStock Vets, Carmarthen set herself the task of cycling nearly 1,000 miles as a challenge to do before she was 50 and to mark the ten year anniversary of ProStock Vets.

Cath, 50, from Llangynog, has always enjoyed cycling and raised £5,076 for the Wales Air Ambulance and £3,000 for the mental health farming charity – The DPJ Foundation.

Reflecting on why she decided to raise funds for the charities, she said: “I picked Wales Air Ambulance as it is an essential service for us living and working in rural communities, and as a family the Wales Air Ambulance came out when my brother, Richard Tudor, died in a tractor accident on the family farm in Mid Wales in April 2020. My brother was killed when the tractor rolled on a steep slope when spreading fertiliser. 

“I chose DPJ Foundation as well due to it being a local charity which helps farmers struggling with mental health.”

The vet is no stranger to getting on her bike for charity, in 2016 Cath cycled the length of Wales for The Stroke Association and in 2018 she also completed a charity ride around Montgomeryshire for the Royal Welsh Show and a bowel cancer charity.

Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’.

The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.

Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.

Cath at Land’s End

A delighted Cath is extremely grateful to everyone who donated to the fundraiser, she said: “A massive thanks to everyone who has sponsored me and encouraged me to do the challenge. The support and reactions from everyone has been overwhelming.”

Despite having days when the fundraiser was challenging, Cath experience many highlights including seeing every area of the country and making friends for life.

She added: “There was a fabulous group of us, with everyone helping one another and I made friends for life.”

Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Cath has raised an incredible £8,000 for two essential charities. It is heart-warming to hear the reason behind Cath’s fundraiser, sadly she knows first-hand the importance of the Wales Air Ambulance, especially in rural Wales.

“Cath set herself the challenge of cycling nearly 1,000miles and her determination to raise funds for both charities is evident. Thank you to everyone who has supported Cath and donated to the Wales Air Ambulance, you’re all helping us be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance.

These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com. 

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.

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Community

Red Dot brings the Christmas joy

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Red Dot staff

TODAY saw the team from Red Dot Independent Financial Services in Llandeilo bringing Christmas Joy to Bocs Bwyd Llandeilo (formerly known as the Llandeilo Food Hub):

40 bags of Christmas gifts including games and an activity book , reindeer food and sweets, to be given out to families in need.

“We’re so grateful for this kind gesture,” says volunteer Catrin Thomas. “Thanks for putting so much thought and time and effort into these wonderful parcels of Christmas joy, and thanks for the wider support you’ve been given to our initiative.”

But the joy doesn’t end there. 

40 bags will be given to families in need

“Festive reindeer food (not suitable for humans) is available for children to call in and collect from our office on 72 Rhosmaen Street,” says Steph Jones from Red Dot. 

“We also have a donation box for food and a money pot  for anyone who wishes to donate when collecting. 

Also, anyone who takes out a policy with Red Dot there’ll be a £40 donation for The Food Hub.”

“Bocs Bywd / the food hub is still in need of all kinds of food,” explains committee member Christoph Fischer. 

“Regular, large donations from official sources have ended with the last phase of the pandemic, yet food poverty is still a problem and we rely on private donations more than ever. All food donations are welcome.”

You can drop off food and cash donations with MaryEllen@139 on Rhosmaen Street, Tue – Sat 10 am until 3pm or at Red Dot Mon – Fri 9-5pm 73 Rhosmaen Street

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Greatly respected Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant crowned Police Officer of the Year

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DESCRIBED as a ‘perfect example of an exemplary Dyfed-Powys Police Officer’, Sergeant Gemma Davies wins the Police Officer of the Year title at the force annual awards. 

The Dyfed-Powys Police annual awards are a celebration of talent, offering individuals and teams the chance to be recognised and rewarded for their commitment, hard work, achievements and success.

Held at a virtual ceremony on November 18, the awards have showcased some of the force’s outstanding work, with a focus on those who have made an exceptional contribution to policing priorities.

Sergeant Gemma Davies from the Ammanford area, has served with Dyfed-Powys Police for 14 years and was nominated for the award by her manager and her team members – of which there are 33 that she currently supervises in the Carmarthenshire Neighbourhood Policing Team. 

Acting Sergeant Ian Roach said: “Gemma is a fantastic police officer. She’s compassionate and really listens, and cares for the communities she serves, but also her team members. 

“Her standards as an officer are second to none – she’s the best Sergeant I’ve ever worked with. She puts so much work and effort into ensuring communities are safeguarded, and that priorities are met. 

“We deliver as a team as a result of Gemma’s enthusiasm and drive. She is so thorough – no stone is left unturned when she’s looking to resolve a problem.” 

The Police Officer of the Year award recognises excellence, dedication, and initiative within the role.

Not only has Sergeant Gemma Davies scooped this award, but she was also a finalist in the Inspiring Leadership award and nominated in the Here for You category in this year’s annual awards.

Inspector Dawn Fencott-Price said: “Gemma will take on any challenge with a smile and positive attitude – which is infectious and in turn is reciprocated by her team and colleagues from partner agencies.

“She is innovative – one example being where she introduced online virtual meetings for key individuals in the community at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, which proved invaluable in ensuring our communities were kept informed, updated and reassured at such an uncertain time. This was in fact so successful that it was adopted and replicated across the force area.

“She has also instigated many multi agency operations in response to community concerns to tackle the supply of drugs in Carmarthenshire, one notable example being in Bynea last year, which resulted in the seizure of a large number of cannabis plants with a street value of more than £300,000.

“Previously recognised for her relationship building and intelligence gathering in hostile environments by the Senior Management Team, she is passionate about promoting and adopting a problem-solving approach to ensure they get to the root cause of problems.  I have witnessed Gemma’s professionalism first-hand and continue to do so on a regular basis.”

Acting Sergeant Ian Roach concluded: “Gemma is excellent – you couldn’t ask for a better Sergeant. Everyone looks up to her, she is a shining light that motivates everyone she works with.”

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