Hospice team come dancing in Strictly fundraiser

Three hospice care staff are among ten brave supporters taking to the dance floor in aid of Francis House.

Three people stood holding a glitter ball

L-R Angela Doyle, Sharon Doodson and Gio Castro are getting their glitter on for Strictly Francis House.

Angela Doyle, Sharon Doodson and Gio Castro are rising to the challenge to become dance champion and help raise funds and awareness of the crucial role that the hospice in Didsbury plays in the lives of the families of children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.

The event will see the ten novice dancers paired with a competitive dancer from Topaz Dance and compete for the Strictly Francis House glitter ball trophy at Shrigley Hall Hotel, Cheshire on Saturday, March 4.

The contestants have all undertaken six weeks of hourly lessons at the dance studio in Stretford as they attempt to polish their dance moves into a choreographed movie themed routine.

Sharon Doodson, Director of Care at Francis House, is responsible for overseeing the Governance and clinical aspects at the hospice ensuring that a safe service is delivered to the children and their families.

Sharon said: “I am a fan of Strictly and thought this would be a great way of raising some funds and learning a new skill. The thought of dancing in front of people is very scary, but I had to do something that would take me out of my comfort zone. I am definitely not a dancer and it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Sharon has recordings of her dance partner Cameron Robinson performing the steps so that she can practice in her garden at home in Tameside.

Sharon joined Francis House in 2015 and became Registered Manager in 2020 managing the care at the hospice which remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharon Doodson, Registered Manager of Francis House Children's Hospice.

Sharon added: “I am proud to manage such a fantastic team at Francis House. People have a misconception of children’s hospices. They think it’s a very sad place, but it isn’t, it’s a very happy place with lots of joy. It’s about the children and young people getting the most out of their life and doing fun things with them and people enjoy coming.

“I work full time and so does my dance partner Cameron so we are having to work around our schedules which has been a challenge. We have the lesson on a weekend and then I try and practice in the evening when I get home from work.”

Sharon will be performing the Viennese Waltz and is hoping that everyone will have a good night and the event will raise lots of money.

Two people dancing in a dance studio

Angela Doyle of Francis House in training for Strictly Francis House with competitive dancing partner Christopher Savage

Also taking to the floor is Angela Doyle, lead of the education team at Francis House and  member of the senior team.

Angela left the NHS six years ago after work fatigue began to impact her home life. She then joined the hospice team at Francis House and has never looked back.

Mum of three Angela, from Didsbury said: “The last few years within nursing have seen such a challenge for many of my nursing friends. I’m so fortunate in comparison to be in a position where I feel supported, valued and enabled to continue doing the work I love.

“Given that my friends are resigning from nursing it felt poignant now more than ever to raise funds for Francis House as they do so much for all families in our area and I’m grateful and privileged that I remain fulfilled in my profession as a nurse.”

Angela is hoping a few early years of Irish dancing lessons will help get her through her performance. On top of the lessons with dancing partner Christopher Savage, Angela can be found ‘prancing around the lounge’ to tutorials when her three children are in bed.

She added: “I’m hoping for a wonderful night and the energy to reflect Francis House’s drive for continuing to do good work for its families. As long as I get through the dance without missing a step I’ll feel triumphant regardless of where I get placed.”

Gio and Beth stood smiling looking at camera

Gio Castro of Francis House with dance partner Beth Williams

Gio Castro from Audenshaw, is a senior member of the care team at Francis House and manages the emotional support team which runs bereavement support groups for parents and siblings as well as providing one to one emotional support.

Gio has worked at Francis House for thirteen years and enjoyed dancing at school and being part of a dance group at university.

He said: “I love dancing. You can leave me on the dancefloor anytime and I know I’ll survive. I didn’t have any formal training but as soon as it was confirmed that I would be participating for Strictly Francis House I re-joined my local gym, hoping that it will help prepare me with my stamina and flexibility.

“It has been intense and really challenges you not only physically but also mentally in terms of remembering your whole routine.”

Gio will be performing a jive with his dance partner Beth Williams and although the thought of performing in front of 150 people and a panel of judges ‘terrifies’ him, Gio is hoping to complete the routine as close to perfection as possible and that the event will be a success for the hospice.

Two people stood in a dance studio

Vicci Coffey of Champions Accountants with dance partner Elliot Harris at Topaz Dance

Representing local business is Vicci Coffey from Worsley based Champions Accountants.  The firm has been the chosen accountants since the inception of Francis House in the early 90s and the personal service offered extends to managing the hospice computer systems through Champions IT department.

Vicci from Unsworth, Bury, is a tax advisor and spends her days completing tax returns and advising clients.

Vicci is taking part to support a great cause as well as benefit from the exercise of learning an energetic samba.

She said: “I had some dance lessons as a child – but that was longer ago than I would like to admit! Other than the lessons, I am struggling to do too much physical practice due to the space needed. But I do watch a video of the routine about 20 times per day to keep it in my mind. I’m also following some basic dance tuitions online to try and loosen my hips and improve my fitness.”

Vicci is looking forward to dressing up and wearing something sparkly but is also dreading dancing in front of an audience.

“I hope to do the routine with no mistakes, raise lots of money for the charity and I’m not going to lie – I want that glitter ball trophy.”

Other dancers performing on the night include Lucy Hart of Sinclair Law, Lisa Rigby and Aimee Simms of San Carlo, Adi Steel, Jeremy Engineer and Joseph Butcher.

Francis House would like to thank all the dancers, their partners and Pat and Tony Savage of Topaz Dance for all their hard work.

Donate to the dancers

Tickets for the event on March 4 are sold out but anyone can support the dancers in their fundraising for Francis House by making a donation on the Strictly Francis House  JustGiving page.

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