A CANCER charity campaigner from Tamworth was chosen out of hundreds of thousands of entrants to star on a popular ITV show.
Sharon Fox, who documented her own struggles with breast cancer through the pages of the Herald before setting up a support centre in the town, will appear on an episode of Surprise Surprise – watched by an average of 8 million viewers – to be aired in September.
Speaking to the Herald about the experience, Sharon, manager of the Sharon Fox Cancer Centre, said: “It was all so surreal – I’m still pinching myself.
“There were a couple of surprises before mine and I had no idea they were going to come to us.
“But Holly Willoughby [presenter of Surprise Surprise] told the audience ‘you come across all sorts of people in your lifetime but this one particular lady is very inspirational as she has done so much for charity’ – and almost instantly a video came up.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just sat there in shock.”
Joining Sharon in the audience was Sharon Hipkiss, ambassador of the Sharon Fox Cancer Centre – who knew all about the surprise in store.
In February, ITV film crews had come to Tamworth to film what Sharon believed was a documentary about the cancer centre.
She headed to London last week for what she believed was a documentary meeting. Producers said they would pay for a hotel and also throw in free tickets to an ITV show – which turned out to be the taping of Surprise Surprise. The show gives well-deserving members of the public the biggest surprise of their lives, with many meeting their favourite celebrities.
The mum-of-seven added: “I just didn’t twig at all. Somebody said ‘didn’t you have any inkling?’ and I said I was just really looking forward to doing this documentary.
“I had my hand over my mouth the whole time when they played the video.”
But Sharon must remain tight-lipped about the surprise she had in store until the show is aired on September 22 – but she was told it was one of the “biggest surprises in the show’s history.”
She said: “All I can say is that there wasn’t a dry eye in the studio. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”
Yet her appearance on the show wouldn’t have been made possible without close friend Diane Brigden, director of Central Hub Logistics. The two only met each other last March at an awards bash.
Diane nominated Sharon for the show earlier this year. For months, Diane had to keep it all a secret – but almost slipped up just weeks before the taping.
She added: “I was sent the itinerary by ITV and I meant to forward the email to Sharon Hipkiss. But it was 2am in the morning and I ended up forwarding it to Sharon Fox!
“I had to ring her in the middle of the night and asked to speak to her husband [Steve, an electrician] explaining that my electrics were popping. For the next half an hour I felt sick - luckily he managed to delete it before she noticed though!”
And explaining why she nominated Sharon, Diane said: “When people help Sharon out she’s always saying that they are angels, but she needs to look in the mirror herself and realise that she is an angel too.
“What she has achieved and what she brings to other people is incredible. A lot of people at the cancer centre say she has changed their outlook on life. I take my hat off to her.”
Trustees of the Sharon Fox Cancer Centre have also congratulated Sharon.
Cathy Tibbles said: "To have conceived the idea of a voluntary cancer support centre and quickly brought that vision to reality is an incredible achievement - however, doing it whilst having surgery/chemotherapy treatment shows she is very determined and single minded, much-loved and supported by her husband Steve, their family and friends.
"All of the volunteers are inspired by this kind and energetic but ‘extraordinary’ young mum."
Keith Nicklin, chairman, said: "Diane was so kind to secretly nominate Sharon for this well deserved accolade.
"It is heart warming to be involved with this local charity and Sharon has our respect and admiration, as well as the gratitude of so many clients that have benefitted from coming through the doors."
And supporters of the centre can come along and watch the show at Casa Bar on September 22 from 6pm. They will be invited to purchase a raffle ticket on the door as an entry donation for £1.
To find out more, visit www.facebook.com/events/120042858166431.
If you are interested in volunteering at the Sharon Fox Cancer Centre, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01827 311665.