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Mother, Mandy Painter, Honoured With BEM For Charity Work For Starlight Children's Foundation

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A mother who has raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity after her 11-year-old son died of a brain tumour has been recognised in the New Year Honours.

Mandy Painter is awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for her work to raise money for the Starlight Children's Foundation, which grants wishes for seriously ill children.

Ms Painter started fundraising for the charity after it helped grant her son Josh's wish to meet Orlando Bloom before he died in August 2006.

Battling tears, she said: "It's so emotional because this is about Josh, it's not about me, it's never been about me, it's always been about him.

"It's hard, but it's great. Josh would be amazed, absolutely amazed, and proud."

The 46-year-old had no idea she had been recognised in the honours until she received the letter from the Cabinet Office last month.

"When I got the letter from the Cabinet Office, I thought, 'oh have I done something wrong?'. Then when I read it I just sat on the bed and cried.

"It's been really difficult actually because it's a really emotional thing for me, and not being able to share it with anyone has been really difficult."

She said she could not wait to share the news with partner Ian Bateman and her 24-year-old daughter Holly Jakeways.

Ms Painter, who works for Jobcentre Plus, said she has so far raised around £55,000 from organising events "big and small" in her son's memory, and said another £550,000 has been raised through the use of Josh's photo with Orlando Bloom in a Starlight newsletter dropped through letterboxes across the country.

mandy painter

Josh and Orlando Bloom

"That's just under £600,000 in Josh's memory," said Ms Painter. "I started fundraising because it was what Josh wanted to do, because he had such an amazing wish with Starlight that he wanted to give something back.

"It all started when Starlight asked to use his picture with Orlando Bloom. Josh was a massive fan of Lord of the Rings and asked to meet him.

"It was the most amazing day, we had a weekend in London and met up with Orlando for lunch.

"We knew Josh was in palliative care, we knew he was going to die, he knew he was going to die, but it was just such an amazing thing."

The Starlight Children's Foundation asked her if they could use the picture of Josh with Bloom in their newsletter.

Ms Painter said when she asked her son, his reply was: "If it means other kids can have what I had, then let's do it".

"That's what's driven me," she added. "Starlight is a very easy charity that people are interested in, and Josh's story strikes a chord and it's been easy to sell tickets to things, dinner dances, beer and skittles - you name it, we've done it."

Ms Painter, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, who has recently moved to Worcester, plans to have a rest in 2013 to deal with the emotions that come with marking what would have been her son's 18th birthday.

"I just need to get through another milestone. It (the fundraising) is hard and emotional but I get so much out of it, because it just keeps his memory alive," she said.

"I have met some of the families we have helped, and some of the kids we have helped and that's been a really nice side of it.

"That was Josh's original saying: 'if it means that more kids can have what I had had then let's do it'."

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