The annual Rockinghorse Ball has raised more than £100,000 for the Brighton charity which supports some of the most poorly children in the area.
Guests heard the moving story of a seven-year-old girl whose parents spoke about the treatment and support she had had after having liver cancer diagnosed when she was just two.
Rockinghorse chief executive Ryan Heal told guests: “You are directly contributing to the improved care and services for our children.”
The ball was held at the Grand hotel in Brighton on Saturday (12 October) with BBC Sussex presenter Danny Pike acting as the MC (master of ceremonies) for the evening.
Rockinghorse said that 350 guests attended the masked ball and between them and the event’s sponsors they raised £101,000.
The headline sponsor was the law firm DMH Stallard and the supporting sponsors included the Grand hotel, Cardens Accountants, Gap Solutions and Potter Raper.
The charity said: “Funds were being raised for Rockinghorse’s projects across Sussex, including the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex), in Brighton.
“The charity is the official fundraising arm of the Alex and a vital supporter of the neighbouring Trevor Mann Baby Unit.
“Its support extends to children’s wards in hospitals across Sussex, as well as neonatal units, respite centres and specialist paediatric services in the county.
“Since its inception in 1967, Rockinghorse has raised millions of pounds for these services in over half a century.
“The charity primarily raises funds for life-saving and cutting-edge medical equipment with a focus on children’s physical and emotional well-being, as well as providing additional support for parents and carers.
“During the evening, guests raised over £13,000 specifically for oxygen saturation monitors to benefit the Alex.
“These essential items of equipment are used by all departments across the children’s hospital.
“They cost £500 each and are invaluable for monitoring children with various respiratory conditions as well as assessing children post-operatively.”
Mr Heal told guests: “By supporting our numerous projects at the Alex, you are directly contributing to the improved care and services for our children.
“We refuse to stand by and see the Alex without the equipment it needs to give our children the best possible care, no matter what the financial or political backdrop engulfing the NHS.
“Our link to the Alex goes back to day one of Rockinghorse. This wonderful children’s hospital continues to be recognised as a centre of excellence in the region.
“So many people here in the room tonight have directly experienced the work of the Alex and I say thank God for its existence. Trust me, you never know when you’re going to need it!”
Special guests Kerry and John Leppard, from Haywards Heath, understood this only too well, Rockinghorse said.
Mrs Leppard delivered a moving speech about how Rockinghorse and the Alex had supported her family.
Their daughter Florence a liver tumour diagnosed at the age of two. Her diagnosis was confirmed as hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a rare cancer in children, with a poor prognosis.
What followed was an epic journey for Florence which included seven cycles of chemotherapy as she also had secondary disease in both her lungs.
Medics made no promises but, Rockinghorse said, “a miracle was worked” and Florence underwent vital surgery to remove the tumour along with two thirds of her liver.
Afterwards the family were struggling to find help to support Florence. They were delighted to hear that Rockinghorse had played a pioneering role in fully funding a children’s psychologist within the oncology service at the Alex.
The Rockinghorse clinical psychologist, Alice Emond, has now been supporting Florence for six months.
Dr Emond puts Florence her at the centre of the treatment but helps to equip the whole family with the right tools to respond to the challenges that they face.
Mrs Leppard said: “Florence is soon to be eight-years-old and is in year three at school. In the aftermath of her cancer, it was clear she needed psychological support.
“Dr Alice Emond, the Rockinghorse clinical psychologist, provides a safe place for Florence to be heard and she understood the emotional impact the illness has had on her.
“The response has been quite amazing and we are so very grateful. This simply wouldn’t have happened without Rockinghorse – and thanks to their support, many more children and their families will be able to cope with the numerous pressures and strains that constantly surround such a painful diagnosis.”
Her story helped the charity’s supporters to understand where and how their fundraising is spent and the impact that it has on hundreds of families just like hers.
Over 40 members of staff from the Alex attended the Rockinghorse Ball and received a standing ovation for the incredible work that they do.
To find out more about Rockinghorse, visit www.rockinghorse.org.uk.