Written by The Jewish News
A mother of three who is battling cancer this week said she was “so proud” and “absolutely thrilled” after being named this year’s Jewish News- Mitzvah Day Community Hero for her work raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for research into the disease.
Danielle Leslie picked up this year’s award during a fireworks party at Brondesbury Cricket Club last Sunday after being selected by a panel of high-profile judges from a shortlist of five.
Together with her mum Sylvie, the 39-year-old founded the charity Future Dreams, which has raised nearly £750, 000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer by staging star-studded West End shows.
She said: “I am thrilled to have been the recipient of the award. I had no idea I had even been nominated, so I was very surprised to hear I had been shortlisted and even more surprised to win”.
Danielle added that the award is also recognition for her mum, who passed away this year after being diagnosed with a secondary tumour. She said “Mum would be proud of me so this award is for her too. She worked tirelessly for Future Dreams until the end of her life. I have worked hard to raise the enormous amounts needed in the battle against breast cancer and mum and I prove that it is possible to realise dreams even in difficult circumstances”.
Despite still having to undergo three more chemotherapy treatments, the former professional dancer is currently brainstorming for her next fundraising event while praying that a forthcoming scan will give her “good results”. She said: “Hopefully I will go into remission and have the chance to enjoy my life for a long while”.
Congratulations on receiving the Community Hero Award came from television star Gaby Roslin, who hosted the two West End shows organised by the mother and daughter team. She told the Jewish News: “I’m absolutely delighted for Danielle and her family. She is not only a courageous woman but also an inspiration. Her love, kindness and generosity of spirit are endless. I feel honoured and very lucky to count her as a wonderful friend and guiding light. Her late mother Sylvie was very special to me as are her father, Eddie and all her family”.
Other finalists in this year’s Community Hero Award were 94-year Keith Saunders, who has volunteered for World Jewish Relief for more than 20 years, Big Brother volunteer for Camp Simcha Shmuli Kruskal, veteran Chai Cancer Care volunteer Davis Miller and Paula Cohen and Keith Harris, who coordinate the Norwood 25 Group.
Charged with the difficult task of selecting this year’s winner was a panel including Board of Deputies President Vivian Wineman, Baroness Julia Neuberger, adviser to the JCC for London and the prime minister’s former volunteering champion, television producer Dan Patterson and Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks.
Jewish News Editor and panel member Richard Ferrer said: “It was a privilege to present the award to Danielle who, along with her late mother Sylvie, has done so much to raise money and awareness about breast cancer. Praise is also due to runners-up David, Keith, Paula and Keith and Shmuli. Although not winners on this occasion they are all, nonetheless, heroes, who deserve gratitude for their efforts’’.
The presentation of the Award took place during a party at the conclusion of Mitzvah Day, the annual Jewish day of volunteering which this year saw more than 15,000 people give their time in support of good causes across the country. As well as members of the Jewish community, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus also took part in some of 250 events held under the Mitzvah Day umbrella.
Marks said: “In five short years, Mitzvah Day has come from nowhere to one of the biggest events in the Jewish calendar. Quite simply, everyone- every community, every leader, every child- can to do something for others on Mitzvah Day’’.