A TV surprise for mum and her US penpal
A Luton grandmother who’s always put her family first had the tables turned during Sunday night’s popular ITV programme Surprise surprise.
In a story full of heartwarming twists and turns, Sheila Keany (far right) of Compton Avenue had one of her dearest dreams fulfilled when she came face-to-face with Annette Shults, the American penpal with whom she’s been corresponding for more than 50 years.
The emotional meeting was organised by Sheila’s daughter Lauret, 36, who told presenter Holly Willougby that her self-effacing mother more than deserved this special surprise.
She explained: “I knew Mum had been saving to visit Annette.
“But at the beginning of this year she said she wanted me to go to Columbia so my seven-year-old daughter Ellie could meet her abuela (grandmother) and see her late father’s grave.”
Lauret’s partner had been killed before they could marry and Sheila felt for his mother: “She had this big hole in her life, not only losing a son but also never knowing the precious cuddles of her little granddaughter.
“I felt Ellie should be part of her life and that at seven she would be able to remember her South American family.
“Now Ellie’s met cousins who look like her and she has telephone conversations on special occasions with her abuela in wobbly Spanish. “I knew how important it was to Lauret and I’m really really happy they went.”
When the pair returned, Lauret told her mum she’d won a competition and invited her to share the prize – a night at a London hotel with a show thrown in.
Sheila, 66, was delighted to accept her daughter’s warmhearted offer. She’d been looking after her husband Bernard who’s had seven operations in the past two years and needed a break.
The truth only began to sink in when she and Lauret were sitting on the sofa talking to Holly about how Sheila had written to Girl Guide HQ when she was 13 asking for a pen friend who spoke English.
Her excitement was overwhelming when she realised she was about to set eyes on the woman who’d become her closest friend, even though they’d never met.
Still reeling from the memory, she said: “I legged it down the studio’s central gangway to greet her. It was probably very undignified but I couldn’t help myself. Her smile was just the same as every picture she’d ever sent me.
“It was so emotional. I told her she was coming to my house and my wonderful Trefoil Girl Guides organised another last minute surprise – a party for Annette.
“It’s something I never ever thought would happen, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
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