Last Friday found Susan and I guests at a glittering fund-raiser for the Weir Archer Academy, held at the magnificent and mighty Great Fosters in Egham.
Little prepares you for the sight of Great Fosters in Egham, and arriving at night to see the exterior illuminated with flame only makes it more dramatic.
Built in 1550 amidst 50 acres of carefully clipped gardens and lawn, this grand old pile of bricks and in particular its tithe barn was our venue for the evening.
The Weir Archer Academy was set up by now legendary Paralympian David Weir CBE and his trainer Jenny Archer. The Academy provides athlete and coaching support and expertise across all levels and abilities including working with Schools in South London, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire; working with clubs and coaches from the South East and providing access to the Academy for international development for under resourced counties.
After witnessing first hand the paucity of British Paralympic athletes at the Beijing Games when compared with other nations, Weir felt that the sport was fighting for its very survival in Britain. The Weir Archer Academy seeks to nurture the very best athletes and in doing so generate the Paralympians of the future.
As a supporter of the charity, Jellybean donated both design work in the production of much of the printed material on the night, but also in donating an internship to be auctioned off in the silent auction.
And so on the night we were extremely fortunate that both David and Jenny were able to join us, as well as a great number of Academy athletes shortly to race in the marathon.
Festivities kicked off with a champagne reception to the strains of ‘Sweetheart Swing’, a female duo channelling the forces-era close vocal harmonies of The Andrews Sisters.
Suitably refreshed we decamped to the vast tithe barn and to our table for a delicious three course meal of salmon terrine, followed by tender lamb with mint sauce and lastly a trio of chocolate mousse, salted caramel cream and salted caramel ice cream.
Speeches from David followed by a video presentation set out the amazing work the Academy does and what an enormous difference it brings to the lives of children living with disability.
Next came the main business of the evening – raising some much needed money from the guests via the auction – expertly helmed by the effervescent and energetic Joe Gallagher, things got off to a great start. Some amazing lots were generously donated including a ‘money-can’t-buy’ VIP package for Bestival including backstage passes as well as a highly prized Victoria Beckham clutch bag.
Once the final lot had been auctioned, duties fell to the band, Fully Funktional, who kicked off the dancing – right away vocalists, guitarists and even the trombone player were amongst the audience pulling people up onto the dance floor.
As we speak the total raised is already over £20,000.00 – a magnificent sum which will transform the lives of so deserving children and young adults.
Enormous thanks go to all involved in the production of the event and the hospitality on the night, but special thanks go to Tania and Joe Gallagher whose idea for the event and organisation in every area was carried out with determination, dedication and above all else a smile.
For more information on the vital work that the Weir Archer Academy carries out, please visit the website here.