Golden goal reached at Rockinghorse Gala Ball at The Grand Brighton

Rockinghorse Children’s Charity smashed through its £500,000 appeal target as they celebrated their Golden Jubilee here at The Grand Hotel on Saturday night.

The Rockinghorse 50th Anniversary Ball played host to over 400 of the charity’s supporters who helped celebrate their milestone year. The charity launched its 50th anniversary appeal ‘Sussex Giving for Sussex Children’ last October with the aim to raise half a million pounds. £115,000 was raised at the Ball, of which every single penny will be going towards the appeal. The total was reached thanks to an additional generous donation by local businessman Michael Blencowe on behalf of the Blencowe family, who presented the charity with a cheque for £45,000 at the gala event. This has enabled Rockinghorse to reach its £500,000 target two months before the end of the year.

The Ball was compered by Danny Pike from BBC Sussex, with guests enjoying a sumptuous three-course dinner plus a cheese course provided by La Cave á Fromage. Entertainment came in the form of ‘singing waiters’ Opera on the Run, who surprised guests with their humorous and energetic performance. It was a rush to the dance floor as headline act The Fab Beatles – the UK’s number one Beatles tribute band – took to the stage to perform the bands greatest hits. The event was sponsored by DMH Stallard and the firm marked their own celebrations on the night as managing partner, Richard Pollins, also turned 50 this year. Co-sponsors were Cardens Accountants, City Cabs Brighton, Rivervale, and The Grand Brighton.

The charity auction proved a hit with many exclusive prizes available for generous bidders – including a money-can-buy ‘Forever in Fiction’ auction lot kindly donated by award-winning author Peter James. He was present on the night and spoke about the opportunity he had offered for a lucky bidder to have a character with their name in a future Roy Grace novel. The Brighton and Hove Bus Company created a ‘mini’ Rockinghorse bus donated for auction – a replica of the full-scale special edition bus, currently on the roads of Brighton, Hove and Sussex – which will be gifted to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital.

Last month Rockinghorse revealed they had already completed five out of 10 beneficiary projects, thanks to funds already raised for their appeal. They are; 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, alongside a complete unit reconfiguration; 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.

Ryan Heal, Chief Executive of Rockinghorse Children’s Charity, addressed the room and spoke of his love of the charity, he 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!”

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

Image by Stephen Johnson Photography.