Inspirational Michele has a date at the Palace

Michele France
Michele France

A FUNDRAISER and breast cancer survivor who has raised more than £70,000 for charity in Sheffield has a date at Buckingham Palace next year.

Michele France said she was “over the moon but very humbled” after being awarded the BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

A catering assistant at Sheffield Hallam University for 19 years, she is being honoured for services to higher education and charity.

For the past 12 years, Michele, aged 54, has been one of three sisters-in-law – along with Barbara France and Sharon Beresford – who have organised an annual 70s-themed fancy dress party to raise funds for breast cancer research.

They started after Michele, of Waterthorpe, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. Sharon, aged 55, of Halfway, was diagnosed a year later.

The first ball attracted more than 500 people and now it has become an annual event, raising more than £70,000 for the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. Plans are already under way for next year’s party in April.

Michele said: “This award is not just for me but also for Barbara and Sharon and all the people who have supported our fancy dress balls over the years.”

And she warned husband Mick: “When I go to the palace I plan to wear something really special. Mick’s wallet will not know what has hit it!”

Now cancer free, Michele kept working in the university’s Hallam View restaurant throughout her extensive treatment.

Melvyn Jeffries, hospitality manager at Sheffield Hallam, nominated her in recognition of her achievements and her positive attitude at work, even during the most difficult moments of her illness.

He said: “Michele’s skill and ability to provide customer excellence in all she does is a credit to her. Throughout her illness and treatment she remained a positive, hard-working and inspirational member of our team.

“Her tireless work to raise money for breast cancer research is a testament to her determination to not only beat cancer herself but to help ensure others can also overcome it.”

Michele, from Mosborough, said: “When I got the letter through I thought it was a joke. Once I realised it was real, I couldn’t believe I’d received such recognition.

“I’m really excited about going to Buckingham Palace to receive the medal. It will be the first time I’ve been inside the palace.

“I’ve worked at the university for 19 years and I love my job. I get to meet so many marvellous people and I enjoy making things nice for them when they visit.

“I’m proud of the money I have raised so far and will continue to do so for as long as I can. I owe the staff at the hospital everything, without them I would not be here to receive this honour.”

Mountain rescue volunteer Neil Roden has been awarded the BEM in recognition of his work for Sheffield’s HM Revenue and Customs office.

Neil, aged 53, who lives in the Hope Valley, said: “I’ve been doing the job for five or six years now. I help vulnerable workers and ensure employers are paying the minimum wage. It is hugely satisfying to see the impact it can make.

“I couldn’t believe it when the letter landed at my house. I haven’t been able to tell anyone and I keep thinking they must have made a mistake. I don’t know who nominated me but I am really flattered and proud.”