The principal of a Lynn dance school was inspired after sharing the stage with Cheryl Cole to set up a charity dedicated to providing youngsters with performing arts training in memory of her mother.
Helen Weekley, of The Backstage Academy of Performing Arts, set up Christine’s Imaginarium Wish Foundation following the death of her mother, Christine Field, last March following a battle with breast cancer.
Helen said: “Running a charity offering performing arts education and opportunities to youngsters all over the UK who wouldn’t normally get that chance was one of my mum’s last wishes. She wanted us to help youngsters through the education of the arts, giving them the chance of a brighter tomorrow.”
She added: “My mum was the most beautiful and strong woman, and when I got to dance with Cheryl Cole at the O2 Arena for the Jingle Bell Ball 2012 as a Princes Trust Ambassador, she watched from her bed and said to never give up on my job despite how hard it is because she knew we could help people and was so proud.
“She wanted me to start a charity so that we could fundraise and give children and youngsters an opportunity to do projects with us without the constant worry about money.”
Christine Field was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, but appeared in The Lynn News in October 2012 when she was refused a life-extending drug by Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The decision was reversed just days after the story was printed.
Since the charity first launched last year, Helen has already been hard at work leading some life-changing projects including working with teenagers who suffer from mental illnesses at Lynn’s Thurlow House to create a performance about the stigma attached to mental health.
Helen said: “I am extremely proud of our work so far and am especially excited to be giving my own students amazing opportunities as well.
“I have adored working with all the different children and just seeing them loving what the charity is able to offer them.”
She added: “I just pray my mum is looking down proud of what she has helped achieve and that her last wish is gradually becoming a reality.”
The Foundation’s next major charity event follows Helen’s appearance dancing with Cheryl Cole in 2012 at London’s O2 Arena after spending three days training with dancers from LA. One of the professional dancers Helen met through this was Brandon Barton, who has also danced for Beyonce, Rihanna, The Pussycat Dolls, Kylie Minogue, Missy Elliot and Jennifer Lopez among many others.
The pair have a lot in common, with Brandon’s own mother losing her fight with breast cancer, and Brandon is running similar charity projects across LA and Barbados.
Now the pair are combining forces to bring Brandon to a special dance class to be held later this month at the Duke’s Head Hotel. Youngsters will have the opportunity to meet Brandon and take part in a class led by him on February 22 from 10.30am to 1pm. Any child aged eight to 18 is welcome to take part for £25.
Helen said: “I believe we met for a reason and being able to work together is fantastic. He is an inspirational performer and I know his class here will motivate and inspire the young people of Lynn as well as supporting fantastic charity work – this is just the beginning!”