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Sheffield charity dance show raises thousands in memory of inspiring founder

The dance show troupe
The dance show troupe

A local parish has dedicated their annual dance show to troupe leader Tony and raised thousands in his memory.

Every year since 2003, St. Francis of Assisi, Sheffield, have hosted a dance show in aid of the development charity CAFOD’s Lent appeal.

Organised by Grazyna Swales and Tony Womack, a professional dance teacher who helped run the parish dance club until his retirement a few years ago – the annual event has raised tens of thousands for communities around the world.

This year’s show ‘Dream Girls’, which was directed and choreographed by local teacher Sarah Bennet, was dedicated to Tony who died in December last year. It was staged in the St Francis’ church hall over two weekends, welcoming over 350 people though its doors.

The show featured the dance troupe, with other performers playing and singing between numbers, including local band ‘Cellar Vie’ who performed hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. There was also a raffle, with prizes being donated by people of the parish.

Sarah Bennet, the director and choreographer, said: “This is my fourth year of doing the show and it definitely won’t be the last. CAFOD is an amazing cause that’s helping so many people, really affecting their lives in positive ways. The ladies love to dance and I get so much enjoyment out of it too. We also meet up socially.”

The event raised nearly £4,000 which will help communities around the world and in an added boost, all donations to CAFOD’s Lent Appeal, up to £5 million, will be doubled by the UK government up until 12 May.

Grazyna Swales, who has been the driving force in organising the shows and selling tickets since 2003, said: “We do it to raise money for CAFOD. I have faith in CAFOD because I feel a large proportion of the money goes to the cause and not on expenses.

“I see horrific pictures on TV and can’t bear the thought of people being hungry. It’s all about saving lives. Not all the dancers are Catholic but they’re all happy to support CAFOD. It’s a team effort.”

The funds matched by the UK government for CAFOD’s Lent appeal will reach an estimated 245,000 people in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Eritrea and enable communities to grow a better future by providing safe water, supporting communities to plant vegetable gardens and teaching them about good nutrition and hygiene.

CAFOD will also continue its work with communities across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, to tackle poverty and injustice, so that everyone can reach their full potential.

CAFOD’s representative in Sheffield, Jeremy Cain, said: “The Dance Show is a great annual event – it brings people together and raises an incredible amount to help others.

“I’m delighted that the UK government is doubling donations, showing how important the money raised will be for some of the world’s poorest people.”

Donate to the Lent Appeal at cafod.org.uk/lent