Leeds grandmother gets the surprise of her life on TV show Jane McDonald and Friends

Jane McDonald with Irene Collins, 72, of Leeds, and husband Michael, 75
Jane McDonald with Irene Collins, 72, of Leeds, and husband Michael, 75
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An inspirational grandmother who has dedicated most of her life to charity work had her star quality recognised in a surprise feature on the TV show Jane McDonald and Friends.

Irene Collins, 72, of Moortown had been tricked into believing she was simply having a special family day out when she was taken to the filming of the Channel 5 show.

But unbeknown to her, her family members had tipped off producers to her many years of fundraising and volunteering and had all been secretly filmed paying tribute to her generosity of spirit.

Irene said: “I was sitting there quite happily, watching everyone else and then all of a sudden she turned to me and picked me out and said: ‘Hello Irene’.

“The screen went to my daughter talking about me, and my grandchildren and my son Dan and my husband. They’d been filmed weeks before and I didn’t know. It was a big surprise.”

The grandmother-of-five has spent the past 35 years volunteering with the Leeds Yorkshire Cancer Research Committee, of which she is currently co-chair.

She said: “It’s a really good charity. It’s our 60th year of the committee this year and in that time we’ve raised about £1m.

“Twenty years ago my brother died of cancer and I got even more heavily involved after that, with raising awareness and making as much money as we can.”

Irene also runs the Leisure Club at the Street Lane Synagogue twice a month for members of the Jewish community aged over 60.

The club has been going for the past eight years and is regularly attended by up to 60 people.

She was also a member of the now-disbanded charity group called On Stage who performed each month at the Queens Arms pub in Moortown.

Over the five or six years of its run, the group managed to raise about £50,000 for different charities.

Irene also now does befriending - visiting people who live on their own in their homes.

She said: “It’s very important for people who are on their own. I visit once a week and I’ve made a lot of friends along the way.”

To recognise Irene’s incredible work - and in celebration of her golden wedding anniversary this year with husband Michael, 75 - the show gifted her with the jaw-dropping prize of four nights in the Maldives, a seven-day cruise around the Indian Ocean and three days in Mumbai.

“I could not believe it,” said Irene. “It was surreal.

“It was all really lovely for me. I really appreciate what I’ve been given and to have been acknowledged.”

To view the show, click on episode three at https://www.my5.tv/jane-mcdonald-friends.