A DEDICATED charity boss of a vital haven of respite for children and their families has been awarded a BEM in the New Year Honours list.

Maxine Allan was so stunned to see the email had dropped naming her in the New Year list she thought it was spam.

But the CEO of Whiteleys Retreat will be given royal recognition for services to Young People with Cancer and NHS Front Line Workers in Ayr during the COVID-19 Response.

Speaking of the proud moment, the mum-of-three girls from Ayr told the Advertiser: “When I received the email from The Cabinet Office, I thought it was spam.

“I read it over and over, I wanted to tell my daughters but the email stressed the importance of confidentiality, so I kept it a secret until now. It’s truly humbling.

“I still didn’t quite believe it and even when the Ayr Advertiser asked me to do an interview I was still in shock.”

Maxine worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus pandemic and was helped by her daughters Lemoni, Saskia and Paris.

At first as the UK went into lockdown she took the very difficult decision to pause respite services cancelling the special trips enjoyed by families to escape the stresses of life.

With staff furloughed, volunteers shielding and all fundraising events axed due to lockdown, Maxine rolled her sleeves up to keep the lights on.

Joined by a handful of volunteers she took care of maintenance for the 32-acre countryside retreat taking responsibility for laundry and cleaning all the cottages.

Maxine then provided much needed respite for healthcare heroes who were on the frontline in Ayrshire hospitals, by using the cottages at Whiteleys to house nurses.

She said: “When I paused the respite services on due to COVID, I felt incredibly upset for the families who were booked to stay for respite. It was a hugely difficult decision but one that I had to make to protect families, staff and our volunteers.

“I am proud that we at Whiteleys were able to quickly react, and help our NHS during this pandemic. I knew that our community would back this decision.”

Whiteleys opened in 2018 with the help of the local community after the closure of Malcolm Sargent House in Prestwick and welcomes around 600 people per year for respite - children, young people and their families.

Maxine has been dedicated to charities raising over £1.5million since 2012 including climbing to Mount Everest Base Camp, sky diving and of course Kiltwalks.

And Maxine she will receive the award with one person at the forefront of her mind – her late mum.

She said: “I would like to dedicate this award to my mum Jean Hastings Cowan, who passed away in January 2016.

“My mum was always proud of my charity work and would be known for giving me the last £20 in her purse to donate towards whichever fundraiser I was running, at that time!

“I think after her death, I immersed myself into volunteering – perhaps a way to get over my own grief. I guess, thanks to mum, I found what I’m meant to do with my


Maxine hopes the award will continue to raise awareness of the vital facility which is back up and running as an essential service during the Tier 4 lockdown.

She added: “I hope that this award will help raise awareness of the vital respite services that we provide at Whiteleys Retreat - throughout Ayrshire and beyond.

“Whiteleys is an amazing place, a vital haven for children and their families, and one I am hugely proud of. “