Queen to honour Yorkshire Wildlife Park boss and Doncaster charity pioneer

Cheryl Williams
Cheryl Williams

The Queen is set to honour two of the best known figures in Doncaster - with both named in the New Year's Honours list.

Jacqueline Hewitt-Main has been awarded the OBE for her services to prisoners, through her Doncaster-based organisation The Cascade Foundation, while Yorkshire Wildlife Park boss Cheryl Williams has been awarded the MBE for services to business and conservation.

Jackie Hewitt Main

Jackie Hewitt Main

Jacqueline, from Wroot, set up the foundation which teaches, mentors and supports people who have have hidden disabilities including dyslexia, head-injury or other learning difficulties. It also trains volunteers to be mentors and learning coaches.

She started working with inmates at Doncaster Prison in 2013.

Previously, she had helped hundreds of prisoners across the country with learning difficulties to learn to read and write, gain qualifications and make a new start.

Less than a year after she started work at Doncaster Prison, a spokesman for Doncaster prison said: “In Doncaster Jackie’s learners have made great strides in their learning, achieving up to eight years’ progress in the past eight months."

She is also now working with the wider Doncaster community, including people who are struggling to find work, based at a new hub at Marshland.

Jacqueline started working with people with learning issues after her son suffered a head injury in a car crash in 1998, and she researched new ways to help him.

She found out she was to be awarded the OBE in November, and had been nominated independently by two different people.

She said: "I've not been able to tell anyone that I'd been nominated, and I was absolutely bursting. Everyone could see that I was smiling about something, but they didn't know why!

"It is absolutely amazing to think that two people separately thought so highly of what I was doing."

In 2016, Jacqueline was honoured in the Doncaster Free Press Pride Awards, winning the Special Achievement in the Community award for her work with inmates.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park director Cheryl set up the park on land that was previously Brockholes Farm, in Branton, Doncaster, nine years ago, and had developed it into one of the biggest tourist attractions in Yorkshire, employing hundreds of people.

The park also runs conservation work both at its Doncaster base and around the world, including work in Vietnam to improve the conditions of animals in Hanoi Zoo.

She was stunned to be named in the honours list.

Cheryl said: "I was really surprised - it came right out of the blue, and I haven't got a clue who nominated me.

"But we have only been successful because of the work of a lot of people here, and there a lot of people who make it happen, and I think it is recognition for the team.

"It's nice to be recognised by everyone we do, we do as a whole team.

"I think the biggest things we do which make a difference is the work we do on animal welfare, like the pride of lions, and what we're doing with the polar bears, and the work we are doing in Vietnam.

"But when you see people visiting the wildlife park in Doncaster, and when you see the school groups, and you hear the children understanding conservation messages, you realise how important what we are doing in Doncaster is. It is great to help in terms of local jobs too."