Leeds Rhinos MND Strictly Ball: Rob Burrow event to feature presenters Dan Walker and Helen Skelton

A host of sports stars and celebrities will be swapping pitches for perfect poses and television screens for the stage as the sisters of a rugby league legend host the Burrow Strictly Ball.

By Emma Ryan
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 4:45 am

The event, on March 19 at Headingley Stadium, has already sold out of its 400 tickets and will be raising funds to go towards the £5m needed to build the The Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease.

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For 30 years the sisters have done ballroom and Latin dancing, and with their dance contacts and Rob's celebrity and sport contacts, they have come up with a star-studded line up for the night which will feature a dinner, raffle and auction and of course, the dancing.

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Rob Burrow's sisters Joanne Hartshorne and Claire Burnett who are arranging a take off of Strictly Come Dancing for a fundraising event to raise cash for the appeal to build the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease.

Celebrities and sporting stars taking part include the former Leeds United and Sheffield United footballer Brian Deane, former Rhinos players Barrie McDermott and Iestyn Harris, paralympian Ian Marsden, actresses Adele Silva and Natalie Anderson, BBC journalists and tv presenters Sally Nugent and Luxmy Gopal, Line of Duty and Peaky Blinders actor Nigel Boyle, TV doctor Amir Khan and MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, Yvette Cooper.

Joanne said: "We had a go at the Three Peaks but failed and we had done Strictly events before, so it was the obvious one to do but couldn't because of lockdown and so we have picked it back up again. There was that nervousness of would people want to do it. We love it (dancing) but with the rugby lads we did think 'have we gone too far'."

But she added, people found it difficult to say no to Rob, who, when he found out what his sisters were planning set about getting people involved and the sisters set the celebrities up with dance teachers all around the country.

Joanne said: "The ones that really did not want to do it are actually quite enjoying it, but they probably wouldn't tell you that and now they say they want more lessons because they want to win."

Rob Burrow pictured with Barrie McDermott in November 2020 when they went to meet Burrow Seven, a race-horse named after Rob who will help raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Former Leeds Rhinos player, McDermott will take part in the Strictly event at Headingley next month.

There is a celebrity panel of judges signed up featuring BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and his Strictly partner, Nadiya Bychkova, fellow Strictly contestant and Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher and comedian Jon Richardson.

BBC Look North’s Tanya Arnold and TV presenter, Helen Skelton will be the evening's comperes.

The sisters hope that they can raise £100,000 towards the £5m needed for the bespoke centre which 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.

The centre is something that Rob is incredibly passionate about and his sisters said despite the initial devastation at his diagnosis, being positive and campaigning to raise funds and awareness about MND has kept the family going.

Rob Burrow in action for Leeds Rhinos versus Wakefield Trinity in March 2017 at Headingley.

Joanne recalls getting the phone call from Rob as the family awaited the news of test results back in December 2019.

She said: "I remember my mum just cried out straight away, my dad fell to the floor. He was just devastated and I went into overdrive, picked my dad up and phoned Claire. Rob was on his way back and we came together as a family.

Claire added: "It was six days before Christmas and he said for the kids we have to carry on, let's just have a nice Christmas. That night he messaged dad and said 'there will be no tears, stay positive and that is how we will deal with it' and that is what we have done. He was not moping around and carried on as normal. He would go mad if he saw us upset, he would tell us off."

Organising the Burrow Strictly Ball, they said had been hard work but the whole family were looking forward to it with Rob and Lindsey's daughters, Macy and Maya, who attend SCALA school of performing arts doing a performance on the night as well at Claire's ten-year-old daughter Isabella and her dance partner Harry.

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. He wants to help other people and said that very early on.

"Rob is well known and has love and support but he is always talking about the postman or people in factories, people that are not in the public eye. He wants this for them and more needs to be done - as a family we have been surprised about that."

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