Inspirational Woman: Naomi Thomas | Founder of The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation

Naomi-and-Graham-by-Tara-Statton-1Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

I am Naomi I am 32 years old, I live in Somerset with my wonderful husband Graham and my miracle son 4 year old Devon. In 2009 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and in 2010 just 6 days after having my little boy I was told that my cancer had returned, spread and was now terminal. I am the founder of the charity The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation which organises and funds weddings for people with a life limiting or terminal illness around the whole of the UK.

Since we started we have won 4 awards: Bride of the Year from Wedding Ideas Magazine. Caring Person of the Year through Mecca Bingo and Real People Magazine, The Daily Mail Inspirational Women of the Year and I was named on The Independents Happy People List.

I am also finalist for Tesco Mum of the Year which is to take place on 1st March 2015.

Please tell us about your reasons for setting up The Wedding Wishing Well?

I started the charity back in 2012. I had been doing some charity work in my local area to say thank you to the charities who had helped me through my secondary Breast Cancer diagnosis. I got a call one day from a local wedding planner who had read about me in the local press, she told me she wanted to help me organise my wedding for as little money as possible as myself and my fiancé had cancelled our wedding on a couple of occasions due to my diagnosis. We were so overwhelmed that a total stranger would help us. Within a few weeks she had managed to arrange a dream wedding for us. I had actually been a wedding planner for several years myself so I had pretty specific ideas. When we married that year in June, standing at the alter in front of our son, friends and family was so important to us and to finally marry the man who had stood by me through some pretty horrible times in the past few years was amazing. It made me feel that everyone deserves to have that one special day, and with my wedding planning experience and my story maybe I could help to do this for others.

How can I expect our team to be ambitious about the charity and our future plans if I am not. When it is your own charity you can’t help but live it and breathe it and I am proud to be the only registered charity in the UK to be doing what we do.

What challenges have you had to overcome to get to where you are today?

Juggling home life and the charity is very difficult and probably something I will never get the balance right of. For some of the week I work from the office at my house and with my 4 year old at home it can sometimes be tricky to concentrate on the work that needs to be done, especially with the amount of emails we get in each day. I do try and set the weekends aside for him as much as I can though and this year feel I have got the balance much better.

What skills do you have to develop to work with your stakeholders across the sectors?

Our suppliers are key to the success of The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation so we always treat them how we would wish to be treated. No matter if someone is donating £1 or £500 you will get treated the same. Each penny means everything to us.

Does working in the voluntary sector diminish earning potential?

Its difficult. Being the charities founder I want to save money in every way I can to make sure that as much as we can is used for the main cause. However to move forward people need to be employed. Our ethos is that if we employ someone then they need to be bringing their wage in plus more by doing their job. I think people have a perception that people who work for charities earn big bucks because there are endless pots of money for charities but for us it couldn’t be any further from the truth. We sit outside the remits of so many grants that we just can’t tap into hardly anything. Currently all our funds are raised by members of the public from our team organising events.

How do you normally start your day and how does it usually end?

The simple answer is working! I always do social media in the morning when I wake up and just before I go to bed. I also try and read as much as I can as a way of winding down after the days work.

How important is it to take responsibility for your own development?

It’s essential. How can I expect our team to be ambitious about the charity and our future plans if I am not. When it is your own charity you can’t help but live it and breathe it and I am proud to be the only registered charity in the UK to be doing what we do.

It made me feel that everyone deserves to have that one special day, and with my wedding planning experience and my story maybe I could help to do this for others.

Have you benefited from a coach or mentor in your career?

Not officially no. I always watched my Dad work hard and I think that it’s help me to be a grafter.

Who are your female role models and why?

Don’t actually have any. I hope however that I can be a role model for others not only in the work that I do but also for my son. I hope that others who are going through illness like myself can see that life doesn’t end and it can be turned into a positive.

What are your plans for future?

My plans are to grow. We need to be financially sustainable as soon as possible. We currently turn down 80% of all applications due to lack of funds. It breaks my heart turning people down as they all deserve their special day. However the sad fact is there just isn’t enough money in the pot to currently help everyone. I hope that one day we will be able to fulfill the dreams of all the couples who apply.

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www.weddingwishingwell.org.uk

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