In November 2017 we held our third Gala Dinner and auction at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge. Founded in 1775, the Royal Thames Yacht Club is the oldest continuously operating yacht club in the world; the perfect surroundings to welcome 170 guests from across the UK.

A Champagne reception provided the opportunity to meet old friends and make some new ones and the guests were then welcomed by The Island Trust Chairman, Charters Macdonald-Brown.

Following a short video about the work of the Trust, and a ‘thank you’ video from students of The Park School, Surrey, two young beneficiaries from the school addressed the audience. The Park School is a secondary co-ed school, catering for students with moderate learning difficulties or special needs. Ciaran and Emmie are both 15 and had kindly agreed to talk about their voyage in 2017.

Their confidence and composure in front of 170 (!) people was absolutely amazing and although they were nervous, they certainly did not show it.

Without exception, the feedback from the guests was positive and complimentary. They not only managed to explain how the voyage was for themselves – how it had improved their confidence and life skills, but also how important the guests’ support  would be in ensuring that other young people benefitted from sailing in the same way that they undoubtedly have.

Ciaran and Emmie spoke clearly and honestly, with humour and integrity – a balance that is hard to strike for even the most seasoned public speaker.

Once seated for dinner, trustee and professional yachtsman Conrad Humphreys gave an excellent keynote speech. Conrad’s recent experience as Sailing Master on the Channel 4 show Mutiny has clearly inspired him to further motivate others and he encouraged the audience to help The Island Trust to enable disadvantaged/disabled young people to access the benefits, joy and challenge of sailing.

After an excellent meal had been enjoyed by all, auctioneer Nicholas Bonham proceeded to orchestrate the main fundraising event of the evening – the auction. Lots included debenture tickets to Six Nations rugby and Wimbledon’s Centre Court, Holidays in Mallorca and Cornwall, an excellent case of wine, two original paintings by sought-after artists and dinner with an overnight stay at a Michelin starred hotel. After much fun and excitement, the hotly contested lots raised £40,000.

The generosity of the guests was once again demonstrated in the raffle, where Champagne, perfume, jewellery and vouchers (to name just a few of the items) raised a further £4,600.

Keen to continue such an enjoyable evening, the festivities went on late into the night!

The final amount raised after expenses was a whopping £75,000.

We are very grateful to all of the guests, speakers, donors and organisers for their support, which will enable The Island Trust to continue to help over 700 young people annually – almost all of whom could be considered disadvantaged in some way, particularly by means of financial distress, social exclusion, vulnerability or special needs/disability.