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What a night! A successful Sunflower Ball commemorated 95 years of our small charity, with celebrations and a glimpse into a brighter future for our Sunshine Families

Hi Sunshine News Readers,


After months of planning, our Sunflower Ball finally took place last Friday at The Grand Hotel, Gosforth Park, and what a night it was! It truly was an evening to remember and we felt that the evening showcased everything that The Sunshine Fund stands for, and we felt so proud to be able to show our guests just a few snippets of what our small charity has accomplished in its 95 years.


We are pleased to announce that the event raised almost £20,000! These are such important funds which will support children and families in our region, allowing us to continue to fund life-changing equipment to babies, children and young adults living with disabilities, additional needs and terminal illness.

Firstly, we would like to thank Jane Heath and her fantastic team at The Grand for providing the venue, and for their ongoing support. We’d like to thank Anna and her team at Aura events for dressing the room and creating a beautiful setting with sunflower-themed table centrepieces and a stunning flower wall, providing a picture-perfect backdrop. We’d like to thank Chris, Sara and the team at Storm for providing AV to ensure a smooth running of the night, and for providing live music later in the night.


Guests were welcomed to a drinks reception which was accompanied by music from local string quartet, Andrelli, who are based in Whitley Bay. The quartet created a lovely ambience with string covers of contemporary songs both upon arrival of guests, and during the dessert course, too.

The evening was sponsored by our long-term supporters at Eldon Square, who have been a huge help in organising this event. We heard from Cormac Hamilton whose speech captured everything our charity stands for, and what we need from supporters to continue to thrive.


We also heard from our Chair of Trustees, Helen Dalby, as well as our previous chair, Martin Solomon who was in post for 25 years. Both of their speeches reminded guests of why they were here, and where the donations made that night would be going.

At The Sunshine Fund, we believe that every child deserves the same opportunities, and it’s our mission to break barriers to allow children to thrive and reach their full potential. Whether that’s by funding pieces of equipment that can open the doors to endless opportunities, by offering support through our families helpline, or by providing kids access to experiences and activities that may not ordinarily be possible.


To prove to our audience exactly what we mean by that, we were treated to a phenomenal performance by Danceversity; a local community group ran by Asha Thomas. We got a sneak peek at their routine the week before but nothing could have prepared us for the pure joy that they displayed.

We were so proud of each and every child who got up on that dance floor and put their full energy into the performance. I think I speak for everybody who attended when I say that this was the highlight of the night, and really encapsulated who we are, and why we do what we do.


Thank you to Asha, all the kids and their parents for being part of our night, and thank you to Total Sports NE for donating the specially made t-shirts just for the event! BBC’s Anna Foster returned to host the night and was a delight as always, her shared passion for our charity and her charisma engaged the audience and we’re so grateful for her continued support over the years.


She also kindly supported the event with an interview on BBC Radio Newcastle, where she spoke to Danceversity’s Asha ahead of the event. Anna spoke to several families who joined us on the night, so they could share their own stories with the crowd.

We had the pleasure of welcoming the Weymes’ family, including Haydn who has been funded a wheelchair and a powerpack when he was a child, and the family have been long-term supporters of The Sunshine Fund, racing for us in the GNR and our annual Sunshine Run.

We also heard from 16-year-old Amy Bright who was joined by her mam, Judith, who told our guests how she’s been supported with eye gaze technology since she lost her vision 3 years ago due to an optic nerve condition. Amy is so eloquent when speaking about her diagnosis, and explained how this technology helps her study and revise for exams, and that she passed her GCSEs last summer.


Amy has her own Instagram page where she shares videos and tutorials educating people on how she has adapted to her new life. We were also joined by Amanda & Arron Hunt, who have three boys, two of whom are autistic; we have funded them with Samsung tablets that help them focus, relax and self-regulate.


We also heard from Jen Hewitt whose daughter Ellie has been funded a Delta Buggy headrest and beach wheels so she can join in on the sand instead of watching from the side lines. They have also attended our family events where they have commented on the inclusivity of the activities, as all three children can have fun and create special memories together.

The evening was captured beautifully by our friends at The Bigger Picture, who always take fabulous photos for our events. They also put together our charity video which focused on Poppy and Jack Ward, a brother and sister who both have autism, but display it very differently.


We have funded various items of equipment including a blender so Jack can get the nutrients he needs, a Protac chair which provides a safe-space to improve concentration and self-regulation, and a trampette and trampoline to help release energy and self-regulate, amongst many other physical benefits.


Poppy is extremely creative and artistic, and we were delighted to include a piece of her artwork in our auction, which brings me on to the prizes that were up for grabs! Guests had several opportunities throughout the night to donate towards our raffle, auction and Heads & Tails game.

We’d like to thank Katherine’s Florists for providing the beautiful yellow roses that were available to purchase with a raffle ticket attached, and to One Management Services who donated several prizes for our auction, as well as an overnight stay at Parkmore Hotel, which the winner of Heads and Tails went home with!


We were so grateful for all the prizes that were donated to this event, and would like to thank the following organisations for their generosity: YMU, Waldorf Astoria London, Durham Distillery, Hotel Indigo Durham, Coho Durham, The Grand Hotel, Newcastle Falcons, Northumberland Golf Club, Poachers Cottage, Centre For Life, Pizza Punks, Northern Stage, Tynemouth Aquarium, Namco Funscape Metrocentre, Junkyard Golf, As You Like It, Point Blank Shooting Newcastle, Eldon Square, Wagamama, The Purple Peacock, 3Sixty, Hay & Kilner, Novaquartz UK, Hooker & Young, Pink Gem Holistics, NE Youth, Sunderland Empire, Maldron Hotel, Cake Stories Jesmond, The Glasshouse International Centre for Music, Vibe Tribe UK, and CBK Adventures.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we would like to thank our trusty team of loyal volunteers. We are so lucky to have such a dedicated team who regularly support our events.

Thank you to Sonia Davison at Sage for bringing a great team who helped with the daytime set-up as well as staying on so she could help in the evening. Thank you to our team of evening volunteers who helped sell roses, supported our auction and assisted our team all evening: Patsy Heslop, Rachna Bhalla, Lauren and Kerry Scobie, Kamika Manzano, Laura Colligan and Claire Stark.


Our events wouldn’t be possible without volunteer support, and we truly appreciate each and every person who donates their time and skills to our charity. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with our volunteering opportunities, please visit www.thesunshinefund.org/volunteer.


So, what now? We are looking forward to the next 95 years, and we’re already beginning discussions and plans for our centenary which will be celebrated in 2028. We’ve survived a global pandemic and are battling an ongoing cost-of-living crisis, which is why our supporters are needed now more than ever.


While our black-tie events are integral in raising important funds, we have lots of smaller scale events planned for throughout the year. These are just as valuable for raising vital funds and are an option for those with a smaller budget or who want to take on their own challenge.


They’re great to do alone, with friends and family, or as a team with colleagues. Keep up-to-date with all upcoming events by heading to www.thesunshinefund.org/get-involved. You can see all photos from our Sunflower Ball on our Facebook, and be sure to keep an eye out for our video which will be going live next week!


Thanks for reading,

Sophie X

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