THE founder of a “Secret Santa” charity in Didcot has been chosen as an official Batonbearer for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay.

Courtney Hughes, founder of Secret Santa 365, will be representing the South East by carrying the baton in July on its journey to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

The 24-year-old, who is a student nursing associate, said she was “shocked but honoured” to be nominated for the role after her name was put forward by volunteers at her charity and her family.

Oxford Mail: Courtney said she is shocked but honoured to be chosenCourtney said she is shocked but honoured to be chosen

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She said: “I’m a little bit nervous as there will be lots of people there. However, it will be lovely to meet community champions from other parts of the country.

“It is such a special occasion for Her Majesty. I'm also attending The Royal Garden Party in May so it is going to be a great few months.”

The Queen’s Baton Relay, which is an annual event in its 16th year, started on October 7 last year with Her Majesty The Queen placing her message to the Commonwealth into the Baton.

Oxford Mail: It is going to be a great few months, says Courtney, 24.It is going to be a great few months, says Courtney, 24.

The Baton is now on its 294-day long journey to every corner of the Commonwealth. It started in London, then Birmingham, followed by Cyprus, Malta, Kenya and more.

It will be in England from July 4 to July 28 finishing at the opening ceremony of the games where the final Batonbearer will return the Baton to the Queen.

People selected to be Batonbearers are described by the games as “always willing to take on a challenge”.

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They may have also contributed to sport, education, the arts, culture, or charity as well as being a “figure of inspiration”.

Oxford Mail: Courtney founded the charity at just 14.Courtney founded the charity at just 14.

Some may have taken on a challenge or cause and made a positive impact within their community.

Miss Hughes founded Secret Santa 365 about 10 years ago to support vulnerable members of the community who would have otherwise been alone at Christmas.

“It was in memory of my great grandmother Elsie,” she said. “The charity has now supported thousands of people in Oxfordshire with over 95,000 essential items and wrapped gifts.

“Plus homeless packages, NHS care packages, and nearly 600 refurbished laptops and digital devices to support home learning during the pandemic.

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Oxford Mail: She used her own pocket money to start the charityShe used her own pocket money to start the charity

“The organisation was at first only run at Christmas but it now runs 365 days a year.”

She added: “I have been really privileged to have wonderful opportunities with the charity. I'm currently at university and working full time, so this will be a lovely change.

“I'm honoured to be carrying the Baton for the South East and can't wait until the day.”


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