A Keighley jeweller is donning his sequins and sparkles for a Strictly Come Dancing style charity contest in memory of his baby son.
Liam McQuaid from Airedale Shopping Centre will strut his stuff alongside his wife Anna in a bid to be crowned the champion couple in the competition.
The couple aim to raise vital funds for Martin House Children’s Hospice at the same time.
Their baby son Niall was treated there before his death in 2006, and Liam and Anna are hoping to help the hospice hit its £100,000 fundraising target.
Liam, manager of jewellers Raffles, said: “Our son Niall passed away there when he was just seven weeks old and we have been pretty involved with fundraising for them ever since.
“People have this idea of what a children’s hospice is like but you couldn’t understand unless you’d been there what a happy place it is.
“Niall had neurological problems and they didn’t just take him in, they took the whole family so we could spend time with him 24/7 and they were just amazing.”
Among those supporting Liam and Anna is Airedale Centre manager Steve Seymour.
He said: “I have great admiration for the work that Liam and Anna have put into raising funds for the hospice, to ensure its much-needed services can help other families.
“I know that our shoppers will continue be generous and will donate to help them reach their fund-raising target.”
Liam and Anna, from Leeds, moved in to the Boston Spa hospice for a week along with their other two sons so the family could be with Niall while he received expert round-the-clock care.
After he passed away they were supported through the hospice with counselling and bereavement services and vowed to do as much as they could for the charity in return.
“We’ve done all sorts of fundraising and volunteering for them, and Anna and I are now Community Ambassadors for the charity,” said Liam.
“They’ve been asking us to do this dance competition, Strictly Get Dancing, for the last couple of years and we’d said no previously but we’ve basically been bamboozled in to it this year.
“The last two years it has raised £68,000 just from that event for the hospice so we’re hoping that this year we can take that up to a £100,000 total.”
Liam and Anna have now embarked on a gruelling six-week training session, spending three hours every Sunday practising for the event finale held on February 27.
There they will be judged by a host of celebrities and experts including Jeff Hordley who plays Cain Dingle in Emmerdale, the head of the International Dance Teachers Association and ITV Calendar presenter Christine Talbot.
Neither of them has any previous dancing experience and they have been pitted against 15 other couples who will perform in the dance off on the night.
“We are completely out of our comfort zone but it’s all about having fun and learning something new,” said Liam, who now has three sons.
“We have to learn three dances – one is a group one and the others we perform alone. I think about 450 people come to watch on the night and at the end someone wins the competition.
“We’ve started the training and it’s harder than you’d think to get all the proper moves right but we should raise plenty of money for Martin House and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Since losing Niall in 2006, Liam has helped raise over £27,000 for the hospice by offering jewellery for raffles, while he and Anna have also completed the Great North Run twice.
He said: “It’s as much about raising awareness as it is raising money. It’s amazing how many people don’t even know Martin House is there but people don’t think about it until they need its services.”
As all those involved in the competition, from dance instructors to the venue for the finale, are giving their services for free, every penny Liam and Anna raise in sponsorship will go straight to the hospice.
Martin House Children’s Hospice fundraiser Sarah Tarpey said: “We support 400 children and young people with life-limiting conditions, and their families, across Yorkshire and provide respite care as well as community services and counselling.
“It costs us £5 million a year to run all the services we provide and most of that comes from voluntary contributions and through fundraising with events such as Strictly Get Dancing.
“Five of the couples this year are people we know such as our ambassadors like Liam and Anna, but the rest just want to come on board and support us and that is so humbling.
“The dance teacher is amazing and I’m just so proud of all our couples. I cannot thank them enough for what they are doing.”
Anyone wishing to sponsor the couple for the dance competition can call in to Raffles Jewellers in the Airedale Shopping Centre, Keighley, or visit justgiving.com/AnnaandLiamMcQuaid