Jen Blackwell, DanceSyndrome founder, honoured by The National Lottery on ITV primetime TV

The National Lottery’s ‘Big Surprise’ – which honours the individuals who have made a real difference with the help of National Lottery funding –  made a dream come true for a special young lady, Jen Blackwell from Chorley, founder of the charity DanceSyndrome )

The ‘Big Surprise’ is a 90-second weekly slot during the ad break of Saturday night primetime ITV shows – meaning local hero, Jen, 36, got national recognition with around 5 million people tuned in across ITV/STV.

Jen, who has Down’s syndrome, founded DanceSyndrome in 2009. It achieved charitable status four years later and trains people with learning disabilities to become dance leaders, with a focus on unlocking their talents.

The project operates across Lancashire and Greater Manchester with the successful dance leaders holding classes at community venues across the region.

For Jen’s ‘Big Surprise’, The National Lottery arranged for her to meet her heroine, Alexandra Burke, at the world-famous Pineapple Dance Studios in London and perform her own specially choreographed dance to the singer’s hit record, ‘Hallelujah!’ The National Lottery filmed the heart-warming results.

Jen said: “I just can’t put into words how I felt. It was just amazing – I was totally lost for words. It was most definitely big hugs all around! I love Alexandra and have always admired her. She is such a fantastic inspiration.”

She continued, “It was incredible to be able to perform for her at Pineapple Dance Studios – something which was totally beyond my wildest dreams. I cannot thank The National Lottery enough, it has literally been a once in a lifetime experience for me and something I will never, ever forget.”

Jen’s ‘Big Surprise’ aired on ITV and STV at 8.15pm on Saturday 9th June, during the ad break of the Take Me Out Special on Saturday and is the second of 17 short films which will be shown throughout the year, during ITV’s primetime Saturday night TV schedule, that will celebrate and showcase National Lottery funded heroes across the UK.* The all-important Saturday night Lotto results will also continue to be delivered during the weekly slot.

In 2017 DanceSyndrome was awarded £160,000 of National Lottery funding to help them expand their Everybody Dance programme in Oldham and Beeston. Everybody Dance will engage people with learning disabilities in dance workshops that aim to improve self-esteem, health and social skills whilst reducing isolation. Participants help design and develop the sessions, can gain leadership qualifications and jointly run their own workshops. Outreach taster sessions and performances will inspire people with or without disabilities and change perceptions of disability within the communities of Oldham and Beeston.

For more information on DanceSyndrome please visit:

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