Nine courageous couples put on a show to remember in a night of showbiz glamour at The Hospice of St Francis’ Strictly Learn Dancing grand finale on Saturday.
After just six weeks’ training with professionals Brian and Shirley Cusworth, from Balia-Cusworth Dance School, they took to the stage in the charity dance extravaganza, performing the Waltz and the Jive in front of an audience of 400 at Berkhamsted’s packed Centenary Theatre.
In a close contest of daring lifts and splits, three couples – Sharon and Sam Dodd, from Chesham, Emma Young and her partner Gavin Anderson, from Hemel Hempstead, and Janine Dines and her partner Richard Carter-Savigear, from Tring - made it through to the all-important dance-off, performing the Jive to music they’d never heard before.
After much deliberation, Sharon and Sam were crowned winners of the Judges Choice Trophy, and Emma and Gav secured the Audience Choice Trophy. Emma, a mum-of-three who is living with secondary breast cancer and wanted to give something back to thank the Hospice for helping her to live her precious life well since her diagnosis, has raised over £1,100 so far so the Hospice can support more people like her.
“I’m still on cloud nine,” she said. “It was such an amazing night! I’m ticking off 40 things to do before I’m 40, embracing opportunities and loving it! All nine couples had a personal story as to why they want to help the Hospice and taking part in Strictly is an incredible experience I’ll never forget!”
Judges Choice winner Sharon, 36, who took part with husband Sam to thank the Hospice for caring for her mum for four weeks before she died last October, said: “We couldn’t believe we’d won. The whole experience was so much fun - it felt like one big happy family and it was lovely for Sam and I to do something together in Mum’s memory. We’ve been overwhelmed by everyone’s support helping us raise £1780 and counting for the Hospice.”
Couples from across the Hospice’s catchment took part in the challenge, now in its sixth year. The audience was also entranced by stunning performances from Allstars Academy.
The event looks set to raise more than £14k for the Hospice, which relies on voluntary donations for 87% of its over £5m annual running costs to help people facing life-limiting illnesses to live their precious lives well.
Event organiser Hannah Norton said: “It was a fantastic night of full of glitter and glamour! We’re so proud of all our couples. They worked really hard, showed total commitment and found the courage and confidence to dance on stage in front of 400 people. To us, they’re all winners!
“I want to thank all of them for taking part, Shirley and Brian for giving their time for free to teach our dancers their steps, our judges, volunteers, Allstars Academy for their spectacular performances and Nick Bright for capturing it all on camera.”
If you'd like to take up a challenge to help the Hospice fund its care, sign up now for its 5k Bubble Rush in Gadebridge Park on Sunday 12th May – for more details visit stfrancis.org.uk/bubblerush or call 01442 869555.
To find out more about the Hospice, visit stfrancis.org.uk or follow the charity on Twitter @hospicstfrancis or Facebook facebook.com/thehospiceofstfrancis