A quartet of British sporting legends joined forces with Sale Sharks at a special dinner to raise money to buy a minibus to support a life-changing community programme.
Former England footballer John Barnes, Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle, rugby league legend Paul Sculthorpe and former Sharks star Mark Cueto were on hand at Manchester’s Innside Hotel as £21,000 was raised for the Sharks’ HITZ programme.
Guests forked out for auction prizes including rugby boots worn and signed by World Cup winner Jason Robinson, hospitality tickets for a match at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium and a leotard signed by Tweddle.
And the night was rounded off by John Barnes, who performed his 1990 ‘World in Motion’ rap to the delight of the 200-strong audience.
Delivered across Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire, Merseyside and Cumbria by the award-winning Sale Sharks Community Trust, HITZ uses rugby to increase young peoples’ resilience, self-reliance and confidence.
It gives them the skills to get back into education, vocational training, apprenticeships and employment.
The money raised at the event will pay for a new minibus to help trust staff take vulnerable young people to HITZ sessions across the north west.
Two young people who came through the programme and have since gone on to full time employment took to the stage at the event.
Cameron Healey and Lacey Marshall, both 18, told how HITZ had changed their lives and helped them achieve their dream jobs.
And then it was over to the legends for an on-stage Q&A with host, BBC 5 Live’s Rachel Burden.
“It was a fantastic night and we’re really happy with the amount of money that we managed to raise,” said Jonny Acheson, Sharks Community Manager. “The new minibus will help us take these young people from difficult situations to places where our coaches can help them.”
Lacey, from South Manchester, added: “HITZ has changed my life. Before I started on the programme I was the sort of person who stayed in bed all day. Now I work in the civil service, doing a job I love.”
Among the guests were a number from Barclays Bank, who had agreed to match, pound-for-pound, any money raised on the night.
“We’re so grateful to our legends and to everyone who gave so generously – and in particular, to Barclays, who matched everything we raised,” Jonny added.
“The HITZ programme has already had some fantastic results but we’re not resting on our laurels. With this money we can continue to make a difference to lives right across the north west.”
Rachel Burden said she was ‘honoured’ to be asked to host the event.
“It was a brilliant event, supported wonderfully well by the legends,” she said. “It was such a privilege to be involved and I’m so glad we managed to raise enough money to buy the minibus.
“I know it’ll make a huge difference to the lives of so many young people.”