A CARE home pioneer is in the running for another top award.

Mario Kreft, who set up the Pendine Park organisation in Wrexham with wife Gill in 1985, is a finalist in the St David Awards, the highest accolade bestowed by the Welsh Government.

Mario, who employs more than 600 people in seven care homes in Wrexham, a domiciliary care company and a training company, has been shortlisted in the enterprise category.

He'll be creating another 100 jobs in Caernarfon where he's building a £7m centre of excellence for dementia care and 16 companion living apartments on the site of the former Bryn Seiont Community Hospital on the outskirts of the town.

The winners of the St David Awards will be announced at a dinner at the Senedd on Thursday, March 12.

“The nomination is a wonderful 30th anniversary present for Pendine Park and I am particularly pleased to be shortlisted in the enterprise category because it is recognition of the economic value of the social care sector,” said Mario.

“The world of social care is the glue that binds our communities together and pumps a total of £4bn into local economies across Wales while providing vitally important community-based services.

“There are a total of over 20,000 beds in the independent social care sector in Wales and of those 11,500 beds are for people who need nursing care – and these beds are underpinning the ability of the NHS to function.”

Mario, who lives in Denbigh, is also chairman of Care Forum Wales which represents the independent sector in Wales and the founder of the Wales Care Awards.

The 58-year-old was awarded an MBE in 2010 and has won a host of other prizes, including the Leading Wales Award for Leadership in the Private Sector 2014.

Mario is the son of a circus bear and lion tamer, Franz Kreft, who came to Britain as a refuge from Slovenia after the Second World War and later met and married his mother Pamela.

He was christened in a circus tent in the South African city of Port Elizabeth and raised by his grandparents, Fred and Rene Warburton, who retired to Trefnant, near Denbigh, after selling their business, the former Pen-y-Don Hotel on the promenade in Rhyl.

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said: “This year’s St David Awards finalists are an exceptional group of people from all walks of life. They’re a credit to the nation and are all fully deserving of recognition.”