Greatest Day for Alan Shearer Foundation

18 January 2015

Gary Barlow with Alan Shearer

Take That superstar, Gary Barlow, was in the North East this weekend to perform at an exclusive charity event which raised thousands of pounds for the Alan Shearer Centre.

The singer-songwriter and former X-Factor judge made the one-stop trip to the region to play a private set at the Alan Shearer Foundation Ball at the Newcastle Gateshead Hilton on Saturday night, hosted by the former England and Newcastle striker and his family.

Ball guests from the football fraternity included Robbie Savage, Rob Lee, Alan Thompson and Lee Clark, Newcastle Falcons Rugby captain, Will Welch, along with local business leaders including Sage co-founder Graham Wylie, Collingwood Insurance CEO, Alan Beenshill, Brian Trench of A-Belco, Geoff Thompson from Utilitywise and Freddy Shepherd. Together the well-connected audience helped raise over £150,000 for the Foundation to support the Alan Shearer Centre, the specialist facility in Newcastle run by St Cuthberts Care for disabled people.

Also attending the glitzy fundraiser were Vikki and Karl, parents of Aidan Jackowiak Smith, the four-year-old from Alnwick who, after baffling doctors for three years, was eventually diagnosed with Cloves syndrome, a rare genetic condition which has caused overgrowths affecting his brain and face.

"We have been coming to the Alan Shearer Centre to use the hydrotherapy pool weekly for the last six months," said Vikki, "It's something we just wouldn't be able to do if it wasn't offered for free. We get to meet other people in similar situations, which is good because when you have a child with a disability, you can feel very alone. It's a great place for us to network and socialise."

"This is the third year the Foundation has held a fundraising ball and we try to make it as impressive as possible for our guests," said Alan, whose wife, Lainya, co-hosted the event. "It's fantastic to have Gary performing here especially for us. We really appreciate it."

Alan added: "I'd particularly like to thank everyone here tonight who has put their hands in their pockets in support of the Foundation to help raise such an incredible sum."

Moira Ashman, St Cuthberts Care's Chief Executive, told guests that the funds raised would be used to enable it to continue to maintain its essential facilities and develop disability services.

"Our future plans include a remodelling of the Centre's hydrotherapy suite later this year, together with a full upgrade of the Centre's lighting, which we anticipate costing over £300,000 to complete," she said. "On top of this, we still need to find at least £120,000 every year to fund the Activity Centre to ensure that its well-used facilities remain free of charge to the thousands of people who use it year on year."

Unable to attend the ball, charity patrons Ant and Dec sent a video message encouraging the partygoers to bid high for an array of donated, money-can't-buy auction items such as a signed Brazil World Cup football shirt, backstage passes to a European AC/DC concert and tickets to their Britain's Got Talent show final.

In return for their generosity the audience was treated to an evening compered by retired local businessman, and another of our charity patrons, Mike Browne, the special Gary Barlow performance, a gig by the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and even a short set by Alan's daughter, Hollie, who attends music school in London.

After her performance she thanked the invitation-only ball guests for taking part in the event in aid of the specialist Centre. "I know how much the Foundation means to my dad," said Hollie.