Skating star David Richardson says personal heartbreak has inspired him to figure out a way to help people with dementia with a special show on North Tyneside.
The former British champion, who lives in Heaton, is masterminding an ice-skating extravaganza to mark Whitley Bay Ice Rink’s 60th anniversary this summer for the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of his late grandma.
David saw his “amazing” nan Shirley Snowball, who also lived in Heaton, develop dementia and after she died at the age of 79 late last year, he pledged to take action to help other people affected by dementia.
And now he is busy preparing for a special ‘Best of British Skating Gala’ that will take place at the rink on Sunday, August 30, from 5pm with all the proceed going to the Alzheimer’s Society.
“I’ve seen for myself that Alzheimer’s is a truly awful disease,” he said.
“You literally have to watch people disappear before your very eyes. It’s terrible. You just feel helpless.
“The only way I can now make myself feel useful is by doing my bit to help raise the funds that will hopefully one day lead to a cure for dementia. It would be great to feel that I had contributed something worthwhile.”
It was while former Heaton Manor School student was working in the Caribbean that he vowed to return to his ‘spiritual home’ to stage a special event in her memory at Whitley Bay Ice Rink.
“She died last December and then in January I went off to cruise ships to work as a skater in a show which gave me a lot of time to reflect on what had just happened at home,” he added.
“It made me try to work out just how could I help and what I could do to make a difference. I thought I’m no a doctor, I’m no a researcher and I’m no Alzheimer’s Society dementia support worker.
“All I do is skate and so I wondered what could I do with that which is when this idea came up of a gala here in Whitley Bay.
“That’s because I’ve got a lot of friends who are still competing and still doing professional shows and I set my sights on pulling in as many as I could to help.
“And when it came to contemplating a venue I thought it had to be Whitley Bay because that’s where I spent all my time in my younger days with my grandma and granddad, who were always so supportive of me.
“They always brought me down here and took me to competitions and ploughed loads of money into the sport as well to help me follow my dreams.”
David is using his contacts to attract a host of stars to Hillheads including ten-times British figure-skating champion Jenna McCorkell along with Penny Cooms and Nicolas Buckland who, he says, are the ‘next Torvill and Dean’.
Club skaters from down the decades will also converge on the ice rink for what David says would be a ‘montage’ while members of Whitley Bay junior ice hockey team will demonstrate their skills and there will be a show of synchronised skating.
He said: “It will be a lot of fun and but it’s also going to increase awareness of dementia and to raise as much money as possible for the Alzheimer’s Society.
“This is an event that is really close to my heart. I’ve been skating at Whitley Bay since I was seven so this is payback time in more ways than one.”
Newcastle-based Alzheimer’s Society community fundraising officer Rebecca Scott speech paid tribute to David for dedicating himself to helping the 35,000 people who have dementia in the north east.
“David’s nan must have been really proud of him when she watched him skating and I’m sure those long-term memories really stayed with her when dementia developed as it’s the most recent memories that go first with the this condition,” Rebecca said.
“His whole family, who have rallied round him with this show, will be really proud of him as well now and we are grateful his support because as a charity we rely on people like David to raise the funds that are vital to finance services, campaigns and research.”
Ice rink owner Francis Smith, who decided to commemorate the arena’s 60th anniversary with the show, added: “This will be a great way for everyone to come together to celebrate the rink’s 60th but also a way to boost a cause that is close to so many people’s hearts.
“It should be a night of terrific entertainment which will bring the ice skating community together.”
Tickets cost £4 and are available from the box office at Whitley Bay Ice Rink.