FITNESS fanatics gathered at the MECA yesterday afternoon to raise money for charity at a special Zumbathon.

More than 50 people joined in the four-hour Zumba session, which organisers hope will raise more than £1,500 for Helen and Douglas House.

Those taking part included people who just enjoy fitness as well as some who have needed to use the services of the children’s hospice in Oxfordshire.

Melanie Richards, who is an area fundraiser for the charity, said she was delighted with the turnout.

She said: “It’s been a really fun day and it’s great to see so many people turning up and taking part. We asked people to sign up beforehand but lots of people just turned up on the door, which was absolutely fantastic.

“I want to thank everyone for coming along but also to the five instructors who have given up their time for free, not only today, but also in letting people know about the day.

“I’m very happy with the turnout and if there is this demand then we will certainly be looking to run more in the future.”

Although Helen and Douglas House is based in Oxfordshire it helps many families in Swindon and Melanie’s mission is to get everyone in the town aware of the work they do.

“I think a lot of people now know we cover Swindon as we are getting recognised more and more but there are still those that don’t,” she said.

“We currently help about 22 families in Swindon and are the town’s only children’s hospice. We need to raise £5m every year in funding, which is about 85 per cent of our budget, so the more people who are aware of what we do and can come to events such as this the easier it is to raise that cash.”

Among those at the Zumbathon was Marie McVicker, 30, of Rodbourne Cheney, with her son, six-year-old Ollie Samways. Ollie was born with brain damage and has needed the hospice his entire life.

Marie said: “It’s good to see so many people coming down. Fair play to them for giving up their afternoon. I’ve had a little go myself as well.

“The work that Helen and Douglas House do is absolutely brilliant and they have made such a difference. They provide so much support for people in Swindon which I don’t think many people know about.”

To find out more about Helen and Douglas House or to donate visit