Children's charity hits half a million at gala event

A Sussex children's charity has raised £500,000 in its 50th year, after a final fundraising push at its anniversary ball.

Staff from the Royal Alex and TMBU enjoy the celebrations at the Rockinghorse 50th Anniversary Ball (Photograph: Stephen Johnson Photography)

Rockinghorse, the official fundraising arm of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, launched its Sussex Giving for Sussex Children campaign this year, with the aim of raising half a million pounds for local causes.

And on Saturday (October 7), the charity hit its target at The Rockinghorse 50th Anniversary Ball.

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The event at The Grand Hotel, Brighton, hosted more than 400 of the charity’s supporters who helped celebrate the milestone year, with a three-course meal, entertainment and a charity auction. Items up for grabs included the chance to have a character in a future Roy Grace novel by author Peter James, and a mini Rockinghorse bus by Brighton and Hove Buses.

CEO Ryan Heal and the Rockinghorse team (Photograph: Stephen Johnson Photography)

A huge £112,000 was raised at the ball, with an additional £45,000 donation by local businessman Michael Blencowe on behalf of the Blencowe family. This has enabled Rockinghorse to reach its £500,000 target two months before the end of the year.

Ryan Heal, chief executive of Rockinghorse, spoke at the anniversary ball and said: “I feel a huge sense of pride stood before you this evening as chief executive of this wonderful cause. Rockinghorse means so much to me, and I know I am not alone. I have always positioned myself as a Rockinghorse supporter who happens to be the CEO. My own family could look and feel very different today without the work of the charity; providing life-saving medical equipment, resource, counselling, respite, research and all-round support for the children in our community that need our help the most.

“For any charity to be going strong for 50 years is quite incredible. To have had the impact that Rockinghorse has had over half a century is nothing short of miraculous. When Dr Trevor Mann started the charity in 1967, I’m sure he would be very proud that his vision still means so much to so many today. The impact of our 50th anniversary appeal will ensure continued support for thousands of sick children in Sussex for many years to come. Thank you so very much for your ongoing support of Rockinghorse – here’s to the next 50 years!”

Last month, Rockinghorse revealed it had already completed five out of 10 beneficiary projects, thanks to funds already raised for their appeal.

Sarah and Michael Blencowe with MC Danny Pike, present a cheque to Rockinghorse CEO Ryan Heal (Photograph: Stephen Johnson Photography)

They were; the introduction of a Paediatric Emergency Airway Trolley for Worthing Hospital’s Bluefin Ward; an ongoing activities programme for young people being treated at Chalkhill Child and Adolescent Unit in Haywards Heath; a new outdoor play area at The Bungalow residential home for young people with learning disabilities in Eastbourne; funding for 20 defibrillators to be placed in schools around Sussex to support The Connor Saunders Foundation; and a garden log cabin sensory space for young residents with learning disabilities at Tudor House in Brighton.

The projects awaiting completion are; an asthma clinical trial at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton; the introduction of a Metavision system for the neighbouring Trevor Mann Baby Unit and its sister site the Special Care Baby Unit in Haywards Heath; an additional soft play and sensory space at Finches short breaks centre in Burgess Hill; and £50,000 worth of funding towards the Chailey Heritage Foundation’s D.R.E.A.M. Centre in Lewes.

Parent Joanna Balmer spoke at the Ball about her family’s experiences of Tudor House respite centre in Brighton – one of the charity’s beneficiary projects. She talked about her son Saul, who relies not only on the services provided by Tudor House, but also the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, explaining the impact the charity has had on supporting them, and other families like them.

Best known as the official fundraising arm of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, Rockinghorse raises money to make services stimulating, cutting-edge and accessible for the many babies, children and young people who need them.

To find out more about the charity, visit: