A 70-year-old woman from Bodicote has been named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron for her outstanding contribution to the community.
Pearl Watts has spent 25 years as a foster parent and is now a puppy socialiser for Dogs for the Disabled in Banbury.
The Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. She was presented with the award by Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry.
Mrs Watts said: “I am thrilled to have received a Points of Light award for doing something I love; looking after puppies for a year and fundraising for the charity which trains them to become life-changing assistance dogs. I’ve got the best role in the world and it’s wonderful to meet the puppies I looked after, all grown up and providing amazing support and confidence to disabled people and children with autism.”
The pensioner is the 170th winner of the new Points of Light award, developed in partnership with the successful programme in the USA.
She has also cared for more than 100 young people and even adopted a family of siblings. After retiring ten years ago from foster caring, she got involved with Dogs for the Disabled, based in Blacklocks Hill.
After she looks after puppies for a year, teaching them basic training commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘walk’, the puppies go on an intensive training course and provided to children and adults with physical disabilities or autism, like 13-year-old Jacob.
He has an autism assistance dog called Tom who Mrs Watts socialised as a puppy and has been a constant companion to Jacob.
Theresa Atkins, Jacob’s mother, said: “Our family is so thrilled Pearl has won a Points of Light award. Since Tom arrived he has made a huge difference to the life of our son who was diagnosed with Austistic Spectrum Disorder aged seven.
“Tom is a constant source of comfort and reassurance for Jacob and has made a big difference to the whole family, allowing us to do things we found impossible before like going on a simple shopping trip or having a meal out together.”
Mr Cameron also praised Mrs Watts’ achievement, adding: “Assistance dogs transform the lives to adults and children with disabilities. Pearl has given years to ensuring that Dogs for the Disabled have the training they need and are ready to support their new owners to live full, independent lives. I’m proud to name her the UK’s 170th Point of Light.”