A big-hearted grandma who has helped to raise nearly £1 million for numerous charities has been recognised for her dedication with a special award from The Queen.
Grandmother-of-six Yvonne Rufus has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours’ List in recognition of her hard work to help others.
The 60-year-old has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in the last decade or so through organising shows by the ‘Stars In Our Eyes’ troupe, in which members of the public perform in pubs and clubs as their favourite music stars.
Mrs Rufus, of Scott Avenue, Conisbrough, said: “I am amazed to receive such an award. But it isn’t just for me, its an award for everyone who has been involved with the fundraising down the years.”
The fundraising roadshow was formed in 2003 by a group of friends in Conisbrough, including Mrs Rufus, DJ and compere Juddy Hamshaw and Tommy Freeman.
While Mr Hamshaw died of a brain tumour aged 68 last year and Mr Freeman stepped away, Mrs Rufus has been a constant driving force for the group.
She helped to bring together a collection of enthusiastic people who perform regularly in venues around South Yorkshire as stars including Freddie Mercury, Dolly Parton and Boy George.
Money raised at each show has gone towards a wide range of charities, including the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice in Rotherham, Lions International, Help for Heroes the Aurora Centre, which helps cancer patients across the region.
The charitable group has also raised money for individuals in need.
Their first-ever one-off concert raised £2500 for Denaby youngster Morgan Young, who suffered from a rare debilitating illness called Angel Manns Syndrome. The money paid for a new wheelchair, hoist and a family trip to Disneyland Paris.
Another youngster to benefit was Denaby youngster Joe Hamshaw, who became paraplegic aged just 18 after a biking accident. They raised £2000 to buy him a new light-weight wheelchair.
The troupe is believed to have performed well over 300 shows since its formation and its singers recently took part in auditions for a new ITV series of hit show Stairs in their Eyes.
The troupe is about £20, 000 short of reaching their magical figure of £1 million, and they hope to reach the milestone by the end of 2015.
Mrs Rufus said: “It is amazing how the group has grown and grown in popularity. I can’t believe it when I look back at how many great nights there has been and all of the people we have managed to help.
“It has been a real team effort. If we could reach our target by next year that would be fantastic.”
She received a letter from the cabinet office just before Christmas telling her that she would receive her award at a ceremony locally at a place and time yet to be fixed. She was nominated by Barnsley District Lions Club, which has received thousands from the group down the years.
Mrs Rufus was also invited to the Royal Garden Party next summer, which are held at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
She said: “It is amazing to get the award and the invite. I never expected it.”
Her husband Colin, 62, a retired builder, added: “I am so proud of her, and everyone involved, for all they have done.”
*Visit www.southyorkshiretimes.co.uk to watch a video of Mrs Rufus explaining how happy she is to receive the award.