A charity volunteer from Leeds received the surprise of her life when she was recognised for her efforts during an appearance on new Channel 5 variety show Jane McDonald and Friends.
Irene Collins, who has been raising money for Yorkshire Cancer Research for more than three decades, had no idea she would be featured on the show when she joined her family in the audience during the recording in Manchester.
Irene and her husband Michael with Jane McDonald
The 73-year-old says she felt “overwhelmed” and “humbled” when Wakefield-born singer and actress Jane suddenly turned to her and started praising her charity work. She had been nominated to appear on the show by her son, Daniel.
Irene, who lost her brother to cancer in 1998, was shown video clips of her family and fellow Yorkshire Cancer Research supporters celebrating her dedication and commitment to the charity. She was then rewarded with two tickets for a cruise to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, which she will enjoy with her husband, Michael, in January.
Irene explained: “It was just unbelievable. I started crying and everybody started handing me tissues. Seeing the pictures of my brother during the video was heart breaking, but being recognised in that way by my family was lovely.”
Irene first joined the charity’s Leeds Committee in 1983, when a friend invited her along to a meeting. She’d been looking for a good cause to support and knew that cancer was something that affected everybody.
The committee, which marks its 60th anniversary this year, was founded in 1958. Since the group was already well established, Irene spent many years in the background supporting the more longstanding members.
Irene Collins is co-chair of the Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Leeds Jewish Committee with her friend Hilary Tammer. Both women have been members of the committee for many years, helping to raise thousands of pounds for the charity
However, she eventually became co-chair of the committee with her friend Rosalind Peters. Irene’s son, Daniel, was a teenager at the time with an avid interest in the show-business industry. He suggested the committee hold a “Jewish Women of the Year” event, which became one of the group’s most successful fundraisers.
It was attended by famous names such as actress Kay Mellor, show-business journalist Francine Cohen and the late Lady Amelie Jacobovits, wife of former Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the British Commonwealth, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jacobovits.
By holding street collections and events like afternoon teas, the committee has raised an incredible £3,132,262 for Yorkshire Cancer Research, including money that people living in the Leeds area have left to the charity when writing their wills.
The funds raised have supported vital research and community health projects in Yorkshire, including the early development of breast and ovarian cancer drugs Tamoxifen and Lynparza.
Irene said: “Being on the show was an amazing experience, however I’m part of a team of wonderful ladies and without their support we could never have achieved everything we have. I’ve made lifelong friends through the committee. We’re all from different walks of life but we all bring individual skills to the group.
“Over the years many members have been diagnosed with cancer and that’s made us even more dedicated to the cause. When my brother died, raising money for the charity became even more important to me.
“Since I’ve been volunteering for Yorkshire Cancer Research, great strides have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. We feel very proud to have played our part in this progress. I just hope that my story inspires other people to volunteer. It’s so rewarding.”
Irene’s appearance on the show can be seen at 14:53 here: https://www.my5.tv/jane-mcdonald-friends/season-2/episode-3.
For more information about volunteering for Yorkshire Cancer Research, please visit www.ycr.org.uk/volunteering.
Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.