Wigan mum's charity work in memory of war hero son is recognised with special award
An inspirational grandmother has been recognised for her efforts to raise thousands of pounds for the armed forces community in memory of her war hero son.
Sgt Steven Darbyshire, 35, was the first person from Wigan to be killed fighting in Afghanistan, after his patrol came under heavy gunfire on June 23, 2010.
Ever since, his proud mother Barbara O’Donnell has worked tirelessly to support the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, which raises money to support current and former armed forces personnel and their families.
She said: “I have been selling poppies in memory of Steven and all the rest of the fallen heroes that gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Every year Mrs O’Donnell, who lives in Beech Hill, spends hours selling the poppies and other charity merchandise at Tesco Extra in Wigan.
She has become a familiar face and helps out with other initiatives at the supermarket.
Shoppers are always keen to support Mrs O’Donnell’s appeal and the 71-year-old has raised thousands of pounds over the past 10 years.
She said: “This year I raised £13,172 and I did 16 days from 8am to 4pm every day. I wanted to beat the total from last year and I did it by more than £1,000. It was just unbelievable.
“The generosity of the Wigan people is fantastic. People were donating and not taking any of the Royal British Legion merchandise we were selling, as they just wanted to donate.”
Sgt Darbyshire is at the forefront of his mother’s mind when she is selling poppies and she is always delighted to tell people about him.
Mrs O’Donnell said: “I am hoping he would be very proud of me. I have a big picture of Steven and I always take it with me and put it in the window where my table is. People say they remember him and I say, ‘that’s my lad’.”
Her outstanding efforts have now been recognised with the Heart of the Community Award, which was presented to Mrs O’Donnell at Tesco by the Mayor of Wigan, Coun Yvonne Klieve.
She was nominated by Joe Charnock, from Wigan St Patrick’s ARLFC, who thought she should be honoured for her dedication.
Mrs O’Donnell had no idea she was being presented with the award, describing it as a “surprise”.
Coun Chris Ready said: “It’s amazing what she has done and the money she has raised. Her commitment to doing it has been fantastic, through a real sadness in the life through the death of her son.
“I have only met her twice and she is a really strong lady, but really determined to do what she has done. Everyone loves her at Tesco.”
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