Children In Need
Belle of the ball Debbie Johnson
Fundraiser inspired by foster parents' love
A Norwich woman has raised £8,000 for Children In Need 2007 by encouraging people to slip on their posh frocks and dinner jackets for a glitzy ball. It's the second time Debbie Johnson has staged the event in honour of her foster mum.
Debbie Johnson was five when she and her sisters were taken from their mother's Cromer home by social workers.
Her mother's mental illness meant she was unable to cope with bringing up the girls and Debbie spent the next 12 years in foster care.
The three sisters were kept together and looked after by Joan and Roy Bottomley.
The couple have now both passed away but their devotion has spurred the 26-year-old to raise thousands of pounds for Children In Need and tackle the image of foster care.
"Joanie was the one who tucked me in at night," said Debbie.
"She helped me through the first years - when I was with her I was still very, very disturbed.
Debbie (right) with her sisters
"Although I was inside that relationship, people on the outside still don't seem to understand that being a foster child in a lot of ways is no different to being a real child if you're with the right family.
"There is a lot of stigma associated with being in foster care," she added.
"It's not like being adopted, even though for me I feel like my foster parents were my real parents."
Debbie, who works in IT at Norwich Union, has been raising money for children's charities for 15 years, but for the past two years she's focused her efforts on organising balls following Joan's death.
"My foster mum passed away last year and that was when the Children In Need ball was actually born," said Debbie.
"It was nice to be able to throw myself into something positive, especially because Joan had given me so many positive experiences," she added.
This year's event on Friday, 9 November, 2007 was held at The Forum in Norwich.
For 350 people it was a chance to pop on their finest ball gowns and sharpest suits, with the posh night out generating nearly £8,000. Debbie hopes this will be used to pay for counselling traumatised children.
Debbie managed to put together last year's event just six months after the death of her foster mother. Although it was tough, she feels it was worth it and she has no plans to stop.
"They've been so popular I doubt if I'll be able to wriggle out of doing them now," she said.
Teams from BBC Look East and Radio Norfolk will be competing in a sports race outside The Forum, Norwich, at 1.30pm on Friday, 16 November, 2007. Spectators are welcome - especially those who will delve their hands deep into their pockets to boost the bucket collection!
last updated: 17/10/2008 at 13:30