Gala Awards Dinner: Stars turn out for Foundation's 20th birthday

HRH The Countess of Wessex, Sir Bob Murray CBE and some of the biggest names from across the North East turned out to show their support for the Foundation of Light, as Sunderland AFC’s official charity celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Held at the Foundation’s home, the Beacon of Light, the star-studded evening raised over £90,000 to support the charity’s work across the region.

Hosted by Sky Sports presenter and Sunderland AFC director David Jones, and alongside a stunning musical performance by award-winning singer songwriter Emeli Sandé, over 500 guests celebrated the inspirational stories of 16 Foundation participants who overcame adversity to live happier and healthier lives.

Guests were also treated to a special, and engaging, couch interview by Foundation of Light Trustees Sir Bob Murray, Sir Tim Rice, Steve Cram and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who spoke about their passion for the region and how sport can be used for positive change.

Over the last two decades, the Foundation of Light - the official charity of Sunderland AFC – has used the power of football to support over half a million people across Sunderland, South Tyneside and County Durham, helping to tackle some of the region’s biggest challenges including rising levels of obesity, unemployment, social isolation and poor mental health.

As Royal Patron of the Foundation of Light, HRH The Countess of Wessex spoke of her pride in the work the award-winning charity does across the region:

“We have heard some truly inspiring and moving stories, where people’s lives have been transformed by the Foundation. I say Foundation, but what I really mean is by kind, caring and loving people, because this is what the Foundation of Light is built on.

“Sunderland and the surrounding areas are so very lucky to have this Foundation and tonight we celebrate every life touched, every brick built and every example of hope created by those who work within it.

“Two decades of history, and of investment of people of this region, is something to be so very proud of.”

Foundation of Light Chairman, Sir Bob Murray added: “After a tough 18 months it is fantastic to share this celebration.

“I must pay tribute to HRH The Countess of Wessex who has been our champion for the last 17 years. The Countess has taken our city and its people to heart.

“I am so proud of Lesley Spuhler and her team who continue to amaze me. They have turned hundreds of thousands of lives around and they are the best in Britain. “But the stars of the show tonight are the award winners. Congratulations to each of you.”

The Gala Awards Dinner is the culmination of celebratory activity across the year including a very special video call made by HRH The Countess of Wessex to Foundation participants and members of staff.  


Full list of award winners:

Chloe Kirchner - Harrison Centre for Social Mobility Dedicated Learner Award

Aidan & Emily Burns - Sunderland AFC Shooting Stars Award

Martin Binyon - Arriva Improved Ambition Award

Marco & Laura Towers - Sunderland City Council Stronger Family Award

Luke Murray - Barratt Overcoming Adversity Award

Kyle Ashton - Gentoo Positive Change Award

Mary Eggleston - HLA Services Community Champion Award

Holly Beckett - University of Sunderland Resilience Award

Alexander Walker - ScS Better Connected Award

Liam Arthur - Sunderland College Player Progression Award

Josita Thirumalia - Aspire Social Action Award

Sean Crowder - Ward Hadaway Increased Confidence Award

Natalie Oxberry - Livin Inspiring Learner Award

Daniel McGill - Banks Determined Young Achiever Award

Scott Thirlwell - Murray Family Health Hero Award

Sophia-Rose Brand - Grafton Group Shining Star Award 

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