MARTIN Blondel, the general manager of the Steve Prescott Foundation, has dedicated an MBE awarded to him in the Queen's Birthday Honours list to his mum, who died due to Covid earlier this year.

Martin has been recognised for services to the St Helens community during the pandemic after setting up an essential items hub that offered emergency supplies as the first wave of the coronavirus crisis unfolded in March and April 2020.

Speaking to the Star, he dedicated the honour to his "beautiful caring mother Val Blondel" who died aged 75 in Whiston Hospital on January 17 this year.

She had battled Covid.

Val Blondel, Martins mum, died earlier this year

Val Blondel, Martin's mum, died earlier this year

Martin, who is from St Helens but lives in Knutsford, Cheshire, described his mum as "the most beautiful loving caring person you could ever meet, who touched everyone with her big heart as soon as she met".

The SPF boss set up the Eccleston Arms Essential Items after watching a television news report about a nurse who could not buy the food she needed because of panic buying on the shelves.

He added that the honour is for all those who contributed and supported the project at the hotel, bar and restaurant on Prescot Road, which was converted to the makeshift hub during the first lockdown.

Martin Blondel has been honoured with the MBE

Martin Blondel has been honoured with the MBE

In particular he highlighted the venue's proprietor Andrew Mikhail, the owner of the Mikhail Group of hotels and restaurants.

Mr Mikhail is continuing to recover from the effects of Covid having been taken seriously ill earlier this year

Martin told the Star: "Andrew fully backed my vision and made the improbable possible within hours.

"Andrew has also had a long battle against Covid and I so pleased that he has come through the other side with a long recovery ahead.

"I want to share this award with Andrew, he is an exceptional person along with his great team at Mikhail Group."

Martin with Johnny Vegas and Andrew Mikhail last year. Andrew has sicne fought a long battle with Covid

Martin with Johnny Vegas and Andrew Mikhail last year. Andrew has since fought a long battle with Covid

Martin, who was one of the key figures in building community events such as the St Helens 10K run and the Pride of St Helens awards with Steve Prescott, said he was "absolutely overwhelmed" by news of the honour.

He added: "It has been an extremely difficult time for everyone during this pandemic.

"To be recognised by the Queen in this manner is phenomenal and has not completely sunk in.

"I am feeling uncomfortable at receiving all the plaudits and would much rather be in the background pushing more inspirational people forward into the spotlight.

"I am truly blessed to have great support from the Trustees and committee of The Steve Prescott Foundation. Without their continued support, we could not help those less fortunate than ourselves and keep the great man's name and legacy alive.

"I am sure Steve Prescott MBE would be elated at me receiving this honour. I am totally indebted to him for teaching me so much about life and how you overcome adversity."

Martin Blondel

Martin Blondel

He also highlighted the many people involved in the essentials hub, particularly players from Blackbrook community rugby league club – with Craig Lyon singled out for special mention. The players acted as volunteer drivers to make deliveries at a time when many people were shielding and frightened amid the pandemic's first wave.

Martin added: "They provided a whole host of volunteer drivers who delivered essential items to the elderly and vulnerable at all hours of the day along with SPF ambassadors Tommy Martyn, Lee Briers, Martin Murray, Paul Sculthorpe and the legend and Pride of St Helens Johnny Vegas who went over and above the call of duty.

"I will never forget the moment when JV sent the Russell Crowe video.

"I must admit I cried when I first watched it. I knew this would give the Essential Items appeal the press coverage to keep as many people as possible home and safe.

"I truly believe our actions saved lives."

Johnny Vegas was a big part of the operation

Johnny Vegas was a big part of the operation

Martin offered thanks to his "beautiful wife Karen, precious daughter Sarah and all my family" for their support since the death of his mum.

He added: "As with the SPF, I am truly blessed to have a great family.

"It is always difficult to balance the work/life commitments and during the Eccleston Arms Essential Items project I admit there was little time for my family, but they were as ever fully supportive.

"I know this honour means so much to them.

"Thanks once again to everyone who made this happen."