Dancers create video to get people moving - and support Race for Life

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When a young dancer’s plans to support Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life were scuppered due to the coronavirus pandemic, her friends rallied round with an amazing video of support.

Students from the Wildcats Theatre School in Stamford were not going to be beaten when their warm up routine for Race For Life was put on hold due to the national coronavirus lockdown. The aspiring stars, aged from 8-16, used their back- gardens, yards, patio’s, driveways and garages -anywhere they could find enough space to place a laptop and speaker -so they could tune in for a special online warm-up performance.

The idea behind the video came from the children and their Musical Theatre Teacher, Caz Dolby, who wanted to reconnect with her isolated students and also give support to one of her who had a very special reason for wanting to help out at the charity’s Race For Life events.

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Annmarie Saxton-Howes, was looking forward to taking part in the warm ups at the Peterborough and Stamford races as a way of saying thank you for the life-saving treatment her mum received when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The seventeen year-old, from Horbling in Lincolnshire, was left heartbroken after watching her mother Alicea (55) endure surgery and 19 sessions of radiotherapy before she was finally given the all clear.

Annmarie with friends  -Maddie Sanders (13), Alexa Scott, (14) AnnMarie (17) and Olivia Winham (14)Annmarie with friends  -Maddie Sanders (13), Alexa Scott, (14) AnnMarie (17) and Olivia Winham (14)
Annmarie with friends -Maddie Sanders (13), Alexa Scott, (14) AnnMarie (17) and Olivia Winham (14)

Now five years in remission, the mum of three, who works as a key worker at Grantham Hospital, is grateful for her family’s support when she needed it most. She said: “Annmarie was aged 11 and had just started secondary school when I found a lump in my breast. I went to the doctors and they sent me for some tests, a few days later, the doctors called me but they wouldn’t tell me over the phone what they had found, so I knew something wasn’t quite right. The following week I was in hospital for a biopsy and they found a cancerous lump which was borderline between stage two and three -the news was devastating.”

At first Alicea did not want her children to know what she was going through, she added: “I didn’t tell the children until the week before I went into hospital because I didn’t want them to worry about me, especially Annmarie who was so young at the time. When I knew exactly what was happening we sat the children down and told them about my diagnosis -we are a very close family and it was a very difficult time for all of us.”

For Annmarie, the emotional toll has been long lasting, at first she found the shock cancer news too traumatising to speak with her mum about her diagnosis. To help her deal with the ordeal she attended support meetings every fortnight for three years to help aid her recovery, she decided she wanted to give something back by supporting other people going through a similar experience and performing at Race For Life meetings.

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Along with her Wildcat friends, the talented teenager had been practicing her warm up routine for months but was left disappointed when the Peterborough event was postponed and Stamford race cancelled, she said: “It’s such a shame but also understandably given the current situation. I was really looking forward to taking part and helping out with a warm up routine to support all the runners raising money for Cancer Research UK. It’s an amazing event and the atmosphere is fantastic with thousands of people all united in one common goal to raise awareness and funds to try and beat this dreadful disease. I just wanted to do my bit to show some love and support to everyone talking part and perhaps help with some motivation before the race started.”

A new date for Peterborough Race for Life has been set for Sunday 25th October 2020* -however the Pretty Muddy, Pretty Muddy Kids, Race for Life 5K & 10K at Burghley House, Stamford can no longer take place on Saturday 30th May 2020.

Annmarie’s teacher, Caz Dolby, said: “For the past 8 years, we have worked with Stamford and Peterborough Race for Life and Pretty Muddy, performing warm ups, singing, hosting and generally volunteering. When we heard we could not take part our students were really disappointed and also desperate to come up with an idea where we could still contribute. It was particularly difficult for Annmarie as I know she has been through a lot with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and taking part and supporting the runners means so much to her and her family.”

Determined to help where they could, the dancers decided they would go online with a virtual warm up video for anyone taking part in Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life Home challenge. Twerk, limbo, star jump, squat, skip, dance… Race for Life at Home challenge is about getting people involved while in lockdown and raising money for much needed research.

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Caz added: “After a chat with the students who wanted to be involved we decided we could still offer support to the Race for Life events, whilst keeping them moving and performing. It was a great effort from everyone involved and we managed to pull together a video which is not only inspiring but also motivating to all those who take part in virtual events. Every student put in so much effort, from practicing at home before hand, colouring their hair, wearing glitter to setting up computers on household bins - they really did rise to the challenge. We really hope the video helps to inspire people taking part in Race For Life Home challenge - it’s such a great way of raising money while we are still in lockdown and we are delighted we could still give our support.”

Annmarie added: “I’m thrilled we still mangaed to offer our support this year with our warm up routine. I really didn’t think it was going to happen but the video really works well and I hope people like it. We all performed in isolation but it did feel like we were in it together and I do really hope the video helps to inspire people to raise some money for vital research.

Patrick Keely , Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for the East of England, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Wildcats lending their support to Race For Life Home challenge and I hope their video helps to inspire people to get involved and help wherever they can.

“At a time when it feels like everything is at a standstill, there is one thing that hasn’t stopped, cancer. Our priority as a charity is ensuring that people affected by cancer are getting the support they need right now.

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“But we are already getting people asking about doing Race for Life at Home because they don’t want to see the charity lose out on vital funding. It’s truly humbling to see the response.

“So from their homes, we’d love for supporters to join us and Race for Life at Home in these challenging times. From a run or 5K walk around the garden to limbo in the living room, there is no wrong way to Race for Life at Home. With no entry fee, people might choose to twerk, limbo, star jump, squat, skip, dance, or come up with their own novel way of taking part and share it with friends. The message is very much that ‘while we might be apart, we’re doing this together’. There is no wrong way to get involved and join our community.

“Those lucky enough to have a garden may choose to make use of it but whatever people decide to do, we are immensely grateful for the support, now more than ever. If the idea takes off, we could be looking at hundreds of people stepping forward to Race for Life at Home and perhaps collecting sponsorship to do so.”

People can visit and sign up free for ideas on how they can create their own Race for Life at Home challenge, or for more information about the Peterborough event.