A woman who organises a major awards ceremony that recognises inspirational care got to rub shoulders with The Queen.
According to Sue Thomas, from Wrexham, mingling at a party at Buckingham Palace was an unforgettable experience.
It was a reward for all her hard work with the prestigious Wales Care Awards which honour the skill and dedication of people who work in the social care.
The mum of three began work at Pendine Park care organisation as an admin clerk more than a decade ago and five years ago was promoted to personal assistant to proprietor Mario Kreft MBE.
And as part of her duties Sue took on the role of chief administrator for Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up to help health and care providers provide the best outcomes for those who need social care.
She was nominated for the honour by Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths.
Sue said: “It was a lovely day and a great day out. It’s one of those things you will never forget. It’s definitely something to tell the grandkids about.
“It was quite surreal really and I was thinking ‘Is this really happening?’.
“I got quite close to The Queen. I was about a foot away from her and I could hear her chatting to people. She made people feel welcome
“Everyone was really pleased to be there, and there was a real buzz about the place. There was a brass band and when The Queen came out they played the national anthem.
“It made you feel special. I got to meet some wonderful people. For example I met four World War Two veterans. They were so excited to be there.
“There were four acres of grounds you could walk around. The grounds were absolutely beautiful. You wouldn’t have thought you were slap bang in the middle of London. The grass was to die for.
“The weather was good as well. I went with my husband Darren. He had a great day, and he feels very proud. We both really enjoyed it. We were there for about three hours, but the time just flew.
“I have to thank Wrexham AM and Welsh Government Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths AM for nominating me.
“It’s a real honour and I represented everyone connected with Care Forum Wales as well as Pendine Park Care Organisation.
“It’s really humbling Lesley Griffiths took the time to nominate me. She has always been a huge supporter of Care Forum Wales and Pendine Park.”
The annual Care Forum Wales Care Awards take a great deal of organising and Sue says it’s a rolling programme as she starts work on the next as soon as the last one finishes.
She said: “Care Forum Wales works hard to raise the profile and celebrate the hard work and dedication of the social care workforce.
“My job is to co-ordinate and organise the event and raise sponsorship where I can. Care Forum Wales has more than 450 members across Wales. The awards seek to reward good practice and celebrate good care among the more than 90,000 employees of members.
“It’s a year round job collating the information and collecting nominations. We normally receive around 300 nominations for the 22 awards.
“An independent panel then goes through the nominations and an initial shortlist of six nominees is prepared. This is then reduced to three nominees who attend the awards ceremony which is usually held in October in Cardiff City Hall.
“The nominees all receive either a gold, silver or bronze award. It’s a wonderful occasion which, quite rightly, celebrates the excellent work that often goes un-noticed by the general public.
“We are really very lucky because we have some wonderful sponsors and I am eternally grateful to them because the Wales Care Awards simply wouldn’t happen without their generosity.”
Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths said: “Pendine Park is a fantastic organisation and a leading social care provider in our community.
“Without the hard work and dedication of the staff, Pendine Park would not have been able to achieve their highly respected reputation.
“Sue personifies the excellent care and expertise the organisation provides and is a shining example of the exceptional people who care for the most vulnerable in our society.
“In addition to her work at Pendine Park, Sue is also a chief administrator of Care Forum Wales. Representing hundreds of care homes and social care providers across the country, Sue’s work aims to promote partnership and improve and advance the social care sector across Wales.”
Mario Kreft, who is also the Chair of Care Forum Wales and the founder of the Wales Care Awards, was “absolutely thrilled” for Sue.
He said: “The invitation to the garden party with the Queen is richly deserved as recognition of the fantastic work Sue has done – and continues to do – to make the Wales Care Awards such a great success.”
Care Forum Wales was set-up in March 1993 and works closely with the Welsh Assembly Government, commissioners and regulators to shape policies that focus on making sure people receive high-quality care.
Care Forum Wales also organises training events, professional groups and conferences to promote best practice and share knowledge among its members.