|Panto Stars Bring Smiles To Hospice
PANTO cast members brought some Christmas cheer to sick children at a hospice.
Panto favourite Jonny Wilkes is a regular visitor to Treetops, run by the Donna Louise Children's Hospice Trust, at Trentham Lakes.
And every Christmas he brings his fellow cast members along to visit children and parents.
Jonny, from Baddeley Green, said: "It's a Christmas tradition for me and it just gets lovelier each time we come down to cheer up the kids.
"Donna Louise is the charity which is closest to my heart. The hospice is a special, special place and I will do everything I can to support the charity. We should all be proud of having the hospice on our doorsteps."
Pete Conway, father of singer Robbie Williams, who is patron of the trust, has donated his fee for appearing as Alderman Fitzwilliams in the first two weeks of the panto to the charity.
Pete said: "It's always a pleasure to be at the hospice. I come out pretty often and faces are getting familiar. The staff do a wonderful job."
When the cast arrived, they found children and parents singing festive songs.
The panto stars quickly made friends with the children, before the cast had to dash off to make it back to The Regent Theatre in time for the evening performance.
Three Degrees legend Sheila Ferguson, who plays Fairy Oatcakes, said: "I think it is an honour to be at the hospice to give some joy to people who are less fortunate. It's what Christmas is all about."
Some of the children were a bit frightened by pantomime villain King Rat, played by Steven Serlin, but he soon won them over and made friends.
Steven said: "I loved it. Some weren't too sure at first, but I got there in the end."
The Donna Louise Children's Hospice Trust's head of fund-raising, Melanie Mills, said: "We always look forward to the panto cast visit. Just to see the delight in the children's faces is wonderful.
"This year we particularly want to thank Pete Conway for generously donating his performance fees to the charity. The entire Williams family remain hugely supportive – Robbie's mum Jan was instrumental in introducing the charity to her son and Robbie continues to lend his support and boost our profile.
"We are the only children's hospice in Staffordshire and South Cheshire but sadly we can only afford to open four nights a week due to the recession.
"We rely on voluntary donations to raise £2 million needed each year."
This article was published on The Sentinel On-line, Friday 18th December 2009