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Cancer patient plans festive feast for underprivileged

A WORLD OF GOOD: Tania Sparkes with her daughter Serena

MAJOR SURGERY, aggressive bouts of chemotherapy and living with an uncertain prognosis for a rare type of cancer would make Christmas tough for most.

But for 33-year-old drama teacher Tania Sparkes, it’s motivation to make the festive season cheerful for everyone.

The single mum from Manchester was diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct in 2016. Now facing an uncertain future, she is determined to bring a smile to everyone else’s face and wants to make this Christmas a special one for those spending it alone or going through hardship.

Taking on a role as big as Santa, Tania wants to provide a festive feast and gifts to the city’s underprivileged and is calling for fellow Mancunians to help her Yuletide mission.

“I can’t stand the thought of people being lonely at Christmas,” she said.

Although she’s been desperately ill and unable to work over the past couple of years, Tania was denied benefits and struggled to maintain the roof over her family’s heads.

But some people in the city don’t have the same support system and suffer because of it.

“I sat down and thought that could so easily have been me if it wasn’t for the family and friends who have supported me this year,” she added.

Tania, who has Jamaican, Native American, Irish and Scottish ancestry, has been candid about her struggles on social media and friends have rallied to give her moral support during difficult periods.

Her plea for assistance struck a chord with Mancunians, who are known for their generosity during hardship, and offers of help have come flooding in after an impromptu Facebook appeal to arrange the charitable festive meal.

INSPIRED

“I know there are places in central Manchester that cater for homeless people on Christmas Day but I want to open it up to everyone and include families who are in need as well as people who are lonely,” said Tania.

“I’ve been blown away by the response, it has been phenomenal.” She added: “Everyone just needs that little bit of hope don’t they? And a good roast potato.”

Tania is no stranger to charitable causes. Throughout her illness she has helped to raise funds for the organisation she’s been inspired by – Maggie’s.

Built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, Maggie’s has 21 centres to provide free pratical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends.

To support the organisation, Tania and her 13-year-old daughter Serena took part in a fundraising catwalk event. “Having the support from Maggie’s has done Serena the world of good and for me it has been an absolute haven,” said Tania.

Maggie’s on The Runway this summer saw 50 models, all currently being treated for or affected by cancer, strut their stuff under the wings of Concorde at the Runway Visitor Centre at Manchester Airport, raising £175,000.

Tania has also been modelling in a tasteful nude calendar, captured by acclaimed Mancunian photographer Pip Rustage, with all proceeds going to Maggie’s.

The medical term for Tania’s condition is perihilar cholangiocarcinoma, a liver cancer occurring within the bile ducts.

It’s so rare that only one charity in the country, AMMF, is dedicated to the disease.

Tania organised an evening of Arts 4 AMMF, which was a mix of theatre, music, spoken word and comedy. She raised £1,700 on the night and Serena raised an extra £500 with both a singing performance and a sponsored silence.

But now the heat is on for Tania to put together the perfect Christmas lunch with only a couple of weeks to go until the big day.

PUBLICITY

She has secured a venue in the Sale area and is desperately seeking donations of cooked food, drinks, utensils, decorations and everything else needed to serve a traditional meal to a crowd.

Gifts and people to help with the logistics on the day are also required, as is a local printer to produce publicity leaflets.

“We want to make the room look nice and people could deliver food that they have cooked,” said Tania.

“It would just be good to see so many people happy and I’d like to make people smile for a bit.

“The key thing I want to do is to bring a little bit of happiness to people.”

To reserve a meal at the Christmas Day lunch event send an email to tania. sparkes@yahoo.co.uk. To purchase a Maggie’s calendar visit maggiesontherunway. com.

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