THERE'S a new driver on the streets of Milford Haven these days, but the road Sarah Jane Howlin has travelled in the last six months has not been an easy one.
In December, Sarah's 12-year-old daughter Tia died, after losing her short battle with cancer.
Just weeks earlier, the smiling, pop music-loving youngster had been diagnosed with the rare childhood cancer alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.
The news rocked the community, so when local driving school Fast Track announced its Drive a Dream competition just before Christmas, friends and family were quick to nominate Sarah.
Simon Mottram, who runs Fast Track, said: “The people of Pembrokeshire have been really good to Fast Track, so I sat down one evening and thought 'what can I do to give something back?'.
“We came up with the Drive a Dream campaign, where the public nominated someone who had gone through hardship or done something above the call of duty, and we would give them everything they need to pass their test.”
Simon said he was inundated with nominations, but when he heard Sarah's story there was a clear winner.
On May 8, after 40 free lessons, and three theory test attempts, Sarah passed her driving test first time.
“It still doesn't seem real,” said Sarah, who had to give up her job as a carer when Tia was in hospital.
“When I was told I passed, I couldn't believe it.”
She said: “If it wasn't for these guys I would never have done it.”
“Getting in the car with them, meeting for the first time, it was like I'd known them for ages. They put me at ease straight away.”
She added: “I feel more confident in myself, being able to get in the car and go, and that's because of the training I've had.
“Now I can go back to work, and look even further afield.”
Simon said he and his team, who all donated their time for free, were over the moon to have helped.
“We wanted to make Sarah's life a bit easier, give her and her children that extra bit of freedom, and help take her mind off things for a while,” he said.
“She did fab, and there was a lot of pressure because a lot of people knew she was doing it.”
Sarah's first journey after she passed was to visit Tia's grave.
“With everything that happened with Tia, this was something I wanted to achieve,” she said.
“For her sake and for my kids' sake.
“Just to be able to get in the car and sit with her at the cemetery, it's something that I wanted to be able to do, and now I can.
“It's changed my life.”
“The Drive a Dream campaign was meant for this, it's a happy ending for this journey,” said Simon, who is now hoping to run the competition – with a prize worth around £1,100 - again this Christmas.
“I just want to thank all our trainers, Mike Clare, Michelle Sturley, James Hutson, Dai Forster, Lyn Lewis, Jill Lewis and Jonathan Swift, every one of them was willing Sarah to pass.”