Half a million raised at fundraising ball for Sussex children's hospice

The tenth Snowman Spectacular Fundraising Ball raised over half a million pounds for Chestnut Tree House children's hospice.

Host Danny Pike with The Snowman at the fundraising ball (Photograph: Graham Franks)
Host Danny Pike with The Snowman at the fundraising ball (Photograph: Graham Franks)

The event on Saturday (December 2), was held at the Hilton Brighton Metropole, raising a record-breaking £566,025.

Chestnut Tree House provides care and support to around 300 children with life-shortening conditions and their families across East Sussex, West Sussex and South East Hampshire – both at the hospice and in their own homes. The cost of providing the service is over £3.5 million per year, yet the hospice receives less than seven per cent central government funding, so relies heavily on the support of the local community to continue providing care to local children and families.

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This year’s Snowman Spectacular Ball marked a decade of collaboration between the charity and The Snowman™ – the iconic character created by Chestnut Tree House patron Raymond Briggs almost 40 years ago.

Glamorous guests at the ball (Photograph: Graham Franks)

Taking its inspiration from The Snowman, the ball is the biggest event on the charity’s fundraising calendar. The 564 guests enjoyed a three-course meal, a winter wonderland setting, an evening packed with entertainment and a host of fundraising activities.

The Snowman himself was at the drinks reception to meet and greet guests, and then joined host Danny Pike on stage at the start of the evening to deliver a special message from Raymond Briggs (read out by Danny): “I am delighted that my Snowman has helped Chestnut Tree House raise so much money over the last 10 years to provide care for so many local children and families. I am sure the tenth Snowman Spectacular Ball will be amazing and I hope the guests will give generously to enable Chestnut Tree House to continue its vital work in our local community.”

The Electric Trio kicked off the evening by playing their first number as guests were called to dinner, Matthew VanKan provided live music throughout dinner and Björn Again got everyone up dancing as they performed some of ABBA’s greatest hits. Just after midnight, The Ultimate Jerseys, featuring West End cast members from ‘Jersey Boys’, offered an energetic performance celebrating ‘Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’, before party band Candy Apple Blue played a variety of pop, Motown and soul classics until 2am.

Celebrities including actress and patron of Chestnut Tree House Julie Graham; Big Brother winner Jason Burrill; Brighton DJ Guy Lloyd; and footballers Kerry Mayo and Paul Jones (also a Chestnut Tree House patron), joined the event on Saturday.

The Snowman with an ice sculpture replica (Photograph: Graham Franks)

Eighteen-year-old Rebecca Torricelli took to the stage to talk about what Chestnut Tree House means to her and her family. Rebecca has been using the services of Chestnut Tree House since she was five, and talked about how her life has changed in that time – she is currently reading English at university – and how the hospice has been a lifeline to the whole family over the years.

Rebecca’s speech was followed by an auction, led by Nick Muston, and prizes included a luxury 10-night Caribbean island break which went for £7,000, a chance to be a character in Peter James’s next book for £5,000 and a New York Sporting Adventure which included tickets to both a New York Jets game at the MetLife Stadium and a Brooklyn Nets match at the Barclays Center, which went for £10,000. He also auctioned the Top Table for next year’s Snowman Spectacular Fundraising Ball on Saturday, December 1, 2018, which was snapped up for £3,400.

Brighton businessman and Chestnut Tree House patron Robbie Raggio took to the stage for the final two lots – Pay for a Day and Pay for an Hour. The charity needs to raise £6,850 each day or £285 for each hour to provide all the care both at the hospice and out in the community. Since these fundraising initiatives were launched in 2011, around £1.6 million has been raised at the Snowman Spectacular Ball through Pay for a Day. This generosity has provided 230 days of care both at the hospice and in families’ own homes across East and West Sussex and South East Hampshire.

Chestnut Tree House staff were thrilled when guests pledged to pay for 63 days and a further 170 hours of care for the coming year. Construction company, Willmott Dixon, had not only fulfilled their pledge at last year’s ball to raise a staggering £143,850, but the company also made a new pledge as part of this year’s fundraising total on the night, to raise a further £143,850 during 2018 to pay for three weeks’ care.

The winter wonderland-themed ball at the Hilton Metropole (Photograph: Graham Franks)

Ball guests had other ways to support the children’s hospice during the evening through the Gift Grotto, with over 600 mystery gifts donated by Carte Blanche, Green People, John Lewis and Temple Spa and other supporters, with boxes supplied by Allergy Therapeutics. The Gift Grottos themselves were designed and built by Chestnut Tree House supporter and volunteer, Stuart Upperton.

Linda Perry, director of children’s services at Chestnut Tree House, said: “We are so incredibly grateful to everyone who attended our tenth Snowman Spectacular Fundraising Ball for their overwhelming support and generosity. We simply couldn’t continue to provide all our specialist care services to local children and families without it. £566,025 is an amazing amount of money and in total will pay for nearly 12 weeks of care provided by Chestnut Tree House both at the hospice and out in the community in families’ own homes.

“To put this fundraising effort into perspective, the amount raised in this one incredible evening is more than twice as much as our annual grant from central government, so it really will make a difference to the local life-limited children and families who need our help.

“I would also like to thank our friend and patron Raymond Briggs, for allowing us to feature The Snowman in our Fundraising Ball for the last 10 years. Raymond has been incredibly supportive since Chestnut Tree House first opened in 2003 and the Ball wouldn’t be what it is today without him.

“It would not be possible to put on a ball of this scale without the fantastic support of our sponsors. We would like to thank our headline sponsors, Green People and Leaders, as well as Classic Consulting, Creative Pod, ECE Architecture, E3, Gemini Print, Gusto Wines, Hilton Brighton Metropole, Juice 107.2, Oliver and Graimes, Platinum Business Magazine, Shoreham Vehicle Auctions, Signature Flight and Sussex Life. There are so many people who have been involved with the Ball and I would like to thank each and every one of them on behalf of everyone at Chestnut Tree House – their support is invaluable and really does make a difference.”