GALLERY: Snowman Spectacular Ball raises nearly £½million for children’s hospice

A CHARITY ball for Chestnut Tree House has raised nearly £½million - described as ‘an incredible sum’.

The Snowman Spectacular Ball, held at the Hilton Brighton Metropole on Saturday, is one of the leading charity events outside London.

Now in its eight year, the ball included an exclusive live performance from five-piece harmony group, The Overtones, currently on tour with their new show.

The £455,011 raised topped last year’s total, £415,596, thanks to the support of local businesses.

Linda Perry, director of children’s services at Chestnut Tree House, said: “We are so grateful to our wonderful guests at this year’s Snowman Spectacular fundraising ball for their amazing support and generosity.

“The amount raised is an incredible sum and will pay for two months of care provided by Chestnut Tree House, both at our children’s hospice and in families’ own homes across East and West Sussex. “

An exclusive live performance from five-piece harmony group, The Overtones PICTURE: GRAHAM FRANKS

An exclusive live performance from five-piece harmony group, The Overtones PICTURE: GRAHAM FRANKS

The Overtones, who had the audience on their feet dancing and singing, said: “We are delighted to be performing at the Snowman Spectacular Ball and helping to raise vital funds and awareness for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice. They provide amazing care for children and families in Sussex and it’s a privilege to be part of the evening and to help this worthwhile cause.”

The 540 guests were treated to an exclusive evening of magical entertainment in a winter wonderland setting, inspired by The Snowman, written by the charity’s patron, Raymond Briggs.

Other celebrities at the ball included Sally Gunnell, Olympian and hospice patron, Monty Python actress Carol Cleveland and footballers Paul Jones, Casper Angerken and Kerry Mayo.

The ball was hosted by Brighton broadcaster Marcella Whittingdale and one of the highlights was a heartfelt speech by Helen Cookson, whose two daughters, Rebecca and Rachel, were cared for by Chestnut Tree House.

The ILG Christmas Gift Tree had more than 600 mystery gifts wrapped and delivered by the Crawley-based logistics company PICTURE: GRAHAM FRANKS

The ILG Christmas Gift Tree had more than 600 mystery gifts wrapped and delivered by the Crawley-based logistics company PICTURE: GRAHAM FRANKS

Both girls were diagnosed with Late Infantile Batten’s disease, an aggressive, progressive neurological disorder. Rebecca died in December 2008, aged five, and not long afterwards, Rachel started having seizures. Rachel spent the last nine weeks of her life at Chestnut Tree House and died in November 2012, aged seven.

Following the moving speech, the Spectacular Auction was held, with auctioneer Nick Muston encouraging guests to bid on the 11 ‘money can’t buy’ lots.

A trip to New York netted £5,500, a gastronomic experience for ten with Steven Edwards, winner of Masterchef: The Professionals, went for £3,200, and an exclusive McLaren factory tour was snapped up for £2,600.

Guests were surprised by an extra, unexpected auction lot, courtesy of TV celebrity David Walliams. He donated two tickets to one of the 2016 Britain’s Got Talent audition shows, after visiting Chestnut Tree House last year to meet some of the children and families, and raised £2,600.

Brighton businessman Robbie Raggio took to the stage to encourage people to Pay For a Day at the hospice, at £6,850, or Pay For an Hour, at £285. Patron Mike Holland first came up with this fundraising idea and it has since proved a resounding success. Hospice staff were amazed and delighted when 32 guests pledged to Pay For a Day and 127 put their hands up to Pay For an Hour. There was further excitement when one company pledged to pay for another 14 days.

Other fundraising initiatives included the ILG Christmas Gift Tree, the Caribbean Dream Draw and a Silent Auction.

Ms Perry said: “The number of children who need our care is increasing, our care costs continue to rise and fundraising has proved extremely challenging this year.

“To put it into perspective, this year’s ball has raised more in one evening than our annual grant from central government, so this really will make a huge difference to the children and families in Sussex who so desperately need our help. We are so grateful to all our guests for their incredible generosity.

“It would not be possible to put on a ball of this scale without the wonderful support of our sponsors.”

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