The sisters of Rugby League legend Rob Burrow are hosting a starry Burrow Strictly Ball to raise funds for our £5m appeal to build The Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease. 

Rob was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2019, and since then his family has worked tirelessly to help raise awareness and funds for several charities, including Leeds Hospitals Charity’s appeal to build the bespoke centre.

Both Rob’s sisters, Joanne Hartshorne and Claire Burnett, have danced for 30 years, and competed across the UK, winning national competitions in Ballroom and Latin dancing.

Joanne said: “I’ve done a number of Strictly-themed charity fundraising events over the years and right after Rob was diagnosed, after getting over the initial shock and devastation, it was a natural response to try and do something positive as a family. Claire and I have all the dance contacts, and Rob has all the celebrity contacts, and people find it difficult to say no to Rob! We have eleven celebrities already signed up to take part.”

BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and his Strictly partner, Nadiya Bychkova will be judges on the night and will perform a special showstopping dance.  They will be joined by fellow Strictly contestant and Emmerdale star Kevin Fletcher, and comedian Jon Richardson, who will also judge the star-studded night.

Strictly-star Nadiya said: “‘I love to dance and there is nothing like it for bringing people together. Daniel told me all about Rob and his family and I can’t wait to be part of a very special night’.

Since The Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease appeal launched in September 2021, £1.87 million has been raised thanks to support from the people of Leeds, the UK and beyond.

Joanne added: “We didn’t expect the response on social media and the event to be so big. We really want to raise as much awareness for The Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease in Leeds. It’s great to give something back and the laughter that this has produced within the family has been a real tonic.  We are following in Rob’s footsteps and by his example, as he is so positive and passionate about the new centre.”

The bespoke centre will see all MND services housed under one roof for the first time. Patients will have access to a range of holistic support tailored to their needs, from speech and language therapy, to diet and nutrition advice, and physiotherapy.

Over 400 tickets have already been sold for the event, including to major businesses. So far, the event has raised an incredible £40,000 for the charity. Charles Hanson from BBC’s Bargain Hunt will host a live auction on the night.  The ambition is to raise £100,000 for the appeal.

Comperes for the evening include BBC Look North’s Tanya Arnold and TV presenter, Helen Skelton. Dancers include football coach and former player Brian Deane, Leeds Rhinos Legend Barrie McDermott, and Leeds Hospitals Charity’s ambassador, TV’s Dr Amir Khan, amongst others.

Leeds Hospitals Charity is the charity of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. It supports Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds Children’s Hospital, Leeds Cancer Centre, St James’s University Hospital, Chapel Allerton Hospital, Seacroft Hospital, Wharfedale Hospital and Leeds Dental Institute.

Dr Khan said: “Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the biggest hospitals in the UK. Leeds Hospitals Charity raises crucial funds to support research, equipment and buildings to support NHS staff to deliver the best care for over a million patients and their families each year, so being ambassador is a role I am very proud of. The new Rob Burrow Centre for MND will make a huge difference to patients’ lives, their families and loved ones.”

Photo Credit: Lorne Campbell, Guzelian Media 

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