Four times Paralympic medallist Jade Etherington may have missed her 23rd birthday, but her home town of Bourne has given her a party she’ll never forget.
Yesterday, she became the first person to be granted the honour of Freeman of Bourne.
That would have meant she could herd her cattle freely through the town, but yesterday she was driven in an open top vintage car to a hero’s welcome.
Watched by thousands, children waved Union Jack flags and cheered as she made her way around the town.
After her first stop at Baston CofE Primary School, staff waving a ‘Congratulations’ banner greeted her at Sainsbury’s supermarket.
From there she went to Bourne Westfield Primary Academy, Bourne Academy, Bourne Abbey CofE Primary Academy, The Deepings School, where she was a former pupil, Bourne Grammar School and Willoughby Primary, closing the day at Bourne Corn Exchange for a presentation from the Mayor after spending a few minutes meeting her supporters.
A unanimous vote by Bourne Town Council at a meeting last Wednesday bestowed the honorary title onto Jade. She said: “I didn’t know the Freedom of Bourne existed, but I’m really honoured to have the support at home still carrying on.”
Jade, who is training to be a geography teacher in Lincoln, had been particularly excited about visiting her old school,
Ahead of her visit, she said it would be “really cool” to see her own geography teacher and praised the “tight knit” community of the school.
Chris Beckett, The Deepings School headteacher, said: “It is just monumental what she has achieved.
“We use her story as a role model and inspiration in various talks and assemblies.”
Pupils at Bourne Westfield Primary Academy serenaded Jade and she was presented with a posy before the whole school gathered in the hall to talk to her.
Jade told them how she tried not to cry when she was presented with her first medal because she was so happy to achieve her goal.
The school gave her three cheers and sang a special song, ‘Power in me’, about believing in themselves.
One pupil asked her to sum up the Paralympics in three words and she said, “Scary, nervous and fun”.
Mrs Elaine Radley, headteacher, said: “You have proven just how much you can achieve when you put your mind to it.”
Since returning from the games, it has been a whirlwind of events and interviews for Jade and her guide, Caroline Powell.
But now with the celebrations over, she said: “I’m going to rest and have a break. I want to spend some time with my friends and family. I’ve only just finished unpacking.”
Bourne Town Mayor Coun David Higgs made a formal presentation at Bourne Corn Exchange at Jade’s civic reception. He said: “I think it’s an absolutely brilliant idea.
“One time of day the Freedom of Bourne meant you could heard your cattle freely through the town. It’s not given lightly so this is a really major event for Bourne.
“I think she has a wonderful career ahead of her.”