May 9 2016 After a productive day of helping to deliver water safety presentations to Imphal  Barracks in York,  I checked my phone and discovered a voicemail from one of the team involved in organising the Yorkshire Women of Achievement awards.  Feeling somewhat surprised but curious I returned the call and discovered that I had been nominated for the Courage category by RLSS UK!

The Courage category was named after Jane Tomlinson, the incredible lady who defied secondary breast cancer for several years with her unbelievable determination to run marathons and cycle thousands of miles, raising over £1.85 million  for charity …… despite living with the unbearable pain that bone cancer brings.   When I’m struggling to run a few miles I often think of Jane and her amazing strength.  She was an inspiration…for many, many people and she left behind an incredible legacy which continues as Jane’s Appeal and Runforall, her husband’s charity event company.    Mike Tomlinson, Jane’s husband was very supportive with our MilesforMegan team in the York Marathon event in 2015.  Just by chance we had met at our respective childrens’ applicant day at the University of Leeds in January 2015 and mentioning work with RLSS led to a conversation about Megan, Jane and grief.  Mike asked me to get in touch if he could help in any way to support the river safety campaigning.  He had close connections with York as his daughter had been at university there and his son was hoping to get a place at the University of York.  So he was more than happy to help.  The relay event raised money for both York Rescue Boat and the RLSS Don’t Drink and Drown campaign.

May 20 2016 Since losing Megan I’ve made some good friends who work in local media and a particularly lovely lady who works for itv was going to be a presenter at the awards.  After letting Christine know about my nomination I was offered a lift and a place on her table where I had the pleasure of meeting some talented representatives of Yorkshire and catching up with Mike Tomlinson once again.

The event was held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds and when we arrived, the foyer was already packed with people, predominantly women, looking glamorous and animated, anticipating an exciting afternoon. As a nominee I was informed that all nominated women would wait behind as lunch  was announced  and walk in to the event hall together, so the guests could applaud us.  The room, decked out with starlit black backdrop and white linen could have been hosting the Baftas; and it certainly felt special to be given a standing ovation as we made our way to our seats. Apparently there were around 800 people at the event.

Liz Green of Radio Leeds was the host presenter for the afternoon and The Sue Ryder Wheatfields hospice charity, responsible for launching the YWOA awards 30 years previously, was represented first to paint the overall picture of the awards event.   Following that, the original Calendar Girls received the Yorkshire Rose award.  I think by this point I was starting to feel a little nervous so I’m not sure at which point we started lunch but it was an enjoyable three course dinner with wine (minimal intake just in case one had to negotiate the steps up to the stage).   The awards ceremony for the individual categories began,   One of the first awards went to a delightful young woman named Mary Benson, a talented  fashion designer, who had the whole room laughing and whooping with her open and honest thank you speech about how close she was to giving up due to lack of money.   I won’t repeat what she said here, but her very unguarded use of some bad language was one of the day’s highlights.   We chatted at the end of the event and she asked ‘what did I actually say?’

There were a few other categories before the Jane Tomlinson Courage award which gave me time to get even more nervous, although I was absolutely convinced it wouldn’t go to me.  I honestly did not see myself going up on the stage.   Christine was tweeting the winners of each category through to the itv Twitter page and needed help picking out the names as quickly as possible from the award schedule, which was a welcome distraction from the nerves! The awards were presented in such a way that it wasn’t possible to decipher who it was at first.  Having met some of the other nominees for all six categories at the drinks reception in the foyer, and discovering the diversity,  I could appreciate the enormous range of talent, hard work, dedication and courage that made up the 70 or so nominees.

The presenter for the courage category began her speech about the winner.  There were words such as adversity, courage, campaigning, loss of a child….at this point Christine and I were agreeing it could be one of the other nominees.  It wasn’t until the words ‘river’ and’ losing her daughter Megan in the Ouse’ were spoken that we realized that they were talking about me.  Christine’s eyes filled with tears and I think I was saying ‘oh my god’ a lot and crying too.  It was a very emotional moment. ‘And the award goes to …..Jackie Roberts’.  Then came the scary steps up to the stage without falling over, accepting the awards, saying a few words in the glare of a spotlight (something along the lines of hoping Megan would be proud of me as her mum and thanking Royal Life Saving Society for giving me the opportunity to do work in her memory to prevent further loss…) and trying to leave the stage the wrong way.  Then followed a photograph and a hasty exit to the loo for a pee…nerves!  Then a quick chat with itv Calendar.  It was the same reporter,Sarah,  who had been with us in York for the Don’t Drink and Drown Nightsafe evening, so she knew the story.

Back in the event hall Lizzie Jones was on stage singing.  Lizzie was married to Danny Jones, the international rugby player, who tragically died from heart failure last year.  A lovely young woman, now bringing up twins without their dad, she launched the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund in his memory this year.  She is also a very talented operatic singer and her performance at this particular event was incredibly moving, reducing us all to tears.

The award for the overall Yorkshire Woman of Achievement was presented to the very brave Jayne Senior, the whistleblower on the Rotherham abuse scandal.  She received a very appropriate standing ovation and left the stage dwarfed by an enormous flower bouquet, looking somewhat shocked and emotional.   The event was drawing to a close and Christine and I made our way out to the foyer, stopping to chat to a few people before we left.

I don’t believe anyone who has lost a child or other loved one and follows a path of instrumental grieving, ever expects any acknowledgement for what they’re doing as, to my mind anyway,  it’s simply channelling the love and therefore the grief into doing something positive.  I feel that working with RLSS has given me a new sense of purpose which helps me to cope with the loss of the beautiful soul that was my daughter. However, that afternoon in Leeds is one that I’ll never forget.  The event was posted all over Facebook and I couldn’t tell you how many supportive comments were sent my way, but it was pretty overwhelming, as was the whole thing really.  Very unexpected, heartwarming and special.