A VOLUNTEER driver who has battled dystonia has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Colin Kibblewhite, 76, of Spey Drive, Oakham, was diagnosed with the neurological movement disorder 25 years ago and had to leave his job in sales. A friend approached him asking him to be a volunteer driver for Voluntary Action Rutland, which is based in Lands’ End Way in Oakham, and he has been doing it ever since.
As a keen driver, he has transported about 26,000 people from the area to hospital and day care centres.
He said: “I love driving and meeting people. Doing this is a pleasure for me.
“I thought I would have to give up driving because of my dystonia but the tablets they found for me took away the symptoms so that I could continue.
“I only really start to feel it in the evenings.”
Colin says it took some persuasion to start him volunteering all those years ago.
He said: “A friend told me about volunteer driving and I said it wasn’t my cup of tea at all!
“He persuaded me to go for a couple of trial runs and I’m still doing those trial runs now.”
The father of six has had to keep his BEM honour a secret from his children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
He said: “I got an official looking letter about five weeks ago and I thought it was a bill. I didn’t open it because I didn’t want it to ruin my morning.
“I read the paper and finally thought I had better see what it was. I opened it, read it, read it again and couldn’t believe it.
“I had to tell my wife Judy. We were both so excited.
“It has been a chore to keep it a secret.”
The couple were planning on telling their family and Colin’s brother Gary this morning (Saturday).
Colin said: “Gary’s really into this sort of thing. I’ve played out in my mind over and over again how I’m going to tell him and what his reaction will be.
“I am very proud to receive this award which I don’t think is too bad going for a 76-year-old.”
As well as being able to drive and meet people Colin says there are so many benefits to voluntary driving. He has seen some incredible things.
He said: “I remember one woman who must have been in her late 60s who had been blind since she was two. I took her for an appointment and went in with her and the doctor said they had just come up with something that might help her.
“I took her again the following week and waited for her to have the procedure and when she came out she could see.
“I saw her sister the following week and I asked what the first thing she looked at when she got home. Her sister said they hadn’t been able to get her out the garden. She just couldn’t get enough of seeing flowers again.”
Although Colin does not know who nominated him for the award or when he will receive it, he’s going to carry on with his appointments as usual.
He said: “If you like driving and you like people it is a really rewarding job. I would recommend it. You don’t have to give up at 65 and can carry on as long as you want to.
“They pay for your costs - all you have to give is your time.”