A family who won a trip to Orlando with Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway have heaped praise on Declan Donnelly for ensuring the show went ahead.
More than 200 lucky viewers were flown out to Florida this week for the programme’s live finale after being surprised with tickets to Universal Resorts Orlando throughout the series.
After Ant McPartlin stepped down from TV commitments following a drink driving charge last month, there were fears the show may not be going ahead with ITV cancelling one episode.
Yet Dec, 42, opted to continue with the final two shows of the series, saying he wanted to “honour” the trip for the hundreds of winners.
This week nine-year-old Angel Sutton from Scarborough travelled in the specially chartered Virgin Holidays plane for the airing of the episode alongside her mother, Tina, father, Paul, and foster brother, Alec.
Angel has undergone numerous operations and had both legs amputated after she was born with a genetic condition.
Speaking in Orlando she described the week as “the best trip ever” while Tina, who adopted Angel when she was a baby, labelled Dec “incredible” for continuing without his regular TV partner of nearly 30 years.
“God bless Ant, we love them both but in the run-up we just thought how on earth is this guy (Dec) going to do this… separated after all these years,” Tina, 51, told the Press Association.
“But I knew when it happened he’ll do it.”
“It was an incredible show,” she said of the series’ penultimate episode in which Dec made his solo TV debut.
“How he held it together and then at the end he was so appreciative. He’s an awesome guy,” she added.
Before travelling to Orlando, Angel underwent therapy to overcome her fear of dressed up characters – and has now posed with dozens of stars from across the Universal franchises.
Tina – who has fostered around 50 children over the past 30 years – said the trip had helped bring the family close together.
“We always seem to be doing things separately so to be able to do this together as a family this week it’s amazing.”
Tonight’s ITV show will see Dec host live, as he did last weekend, with Saturday Night Takeaway regulars Scarlett Moffatt and Stephen Mulhern also on duty to help.
The show will feature R&B star Jason Derulo, actress Denise Richards, singer Craig David and pop duo The Rembrandts.
Derulo and The Rembrandts will be performing, former Bond girl Richards is guest announcer, and David will be DJ for the episode.
McPartlin was charged by postal requisition on March 21 after allegedly being involved in a collision with two other cars while he was driving his Mini in Richmond, west London, on March 18.
The finale airs on Saturday at 7pm on ITV.