Former EastEnders star Kellie Shirley took on a half-marathon against dementia in honour of her “mentor” Dame Barbara Windsor.
Dame Barbara – who played pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders – was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.
Opening the Memory Walk Marathon and Half-Marathon at Southwark Park, Shirley said she had been inspired to help find a cure for dementia after learning of Dame Barbara’s diagnosis.
“This is my first Memory Walk for Alzheimer’s Society, but it won’t be my last,” she said.
“I’ve been inspired to take part after running the London Marathon with Barbara’s Revolutionaries earlier this year.
“Barbara Windsor is a massive influence in my life.
“She was my mentor when I was at EastEnders and we’ve remained close friends.”
Shirley, who played Carly Wicks in Albert Square, told fundraisers: “Alzheimer’s is a really awful disease and I’ve seen it first-hand, having worked in care homes in between acting jobs before appearing in EastEnders with Barbara, who is an absolute legend – these are the reasons I’m supporting Alzheimer’s Society, which is an amazing charity.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s really heartening that Barbara has inspired Kellie to go the extra mile in support of our Memory Walk fundraising campaign.
“Too many families are being cruelly torn apart by dementia, and we urgently need more funding for research to help us find a cure so others won’t have to face its heart-breaking impact.
“Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer with someone developing it every three minutes – yet dementia research still trails far behind other health conditions, after decades of underfunding. “
The organisation is committed to spending at least £150 million over the next decade on dementia research to improve care and find a cure.
Alzheimer’s Society night-time Glow Walks will be taking place nationwide in March next year. To sign up visit memorywalk.org.uk.