Bury St Edmunds: Passionate words from founder of Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Auction and Ball

Gina Long

Gina Long - Credit: Archant

Gina Long, the founder of Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Auction and Ball, gave a passionate speech at the ball, held at The Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, last night.

Here is the full text:

“On behalf of my project director Adam Clark and our committee, I welcome you to Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Ball.

A special welcome to Lady Elsie, Mark and Paul Robson, Delia Smith, Michael Wynn-Jones, Chris Askew and John Hollins.

This year’s campaign started 18 months ago, I have so many people to thank, please bear with me.


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In 2011 I wanted to create a huge fundraiser that helped tackle The Big C, one that I hoped would gain the world’s attention. For that to happen I knew it had to be something completely unique, that was when Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Ball and Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Online auction was born.

Having known Sir Bobby and Lady Elsie for over 35 year I was lucky enough to see first hand how the world, regardless of the team one supports, loved and respected the great Sir Bobby Robson.

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The success from 2011 was helped enormously when Jose Mourinho donated his FIFA Ballon D’or, that was the moment when Chris Hollins, having taken endless calls and emails over several months, agreed to put Lady Elsie and I on the BBC Breakfast sofa; this resulted in us getting the global coverage we needed and helped us raise £248,000 for the Sir Bobby Robson’s Foundation and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Bobby founded his foundation knowing he had terminal cancer and having fought cancer five times over many years.

Bobby had a goal to raise £500,000. That figure was achieved very quickly and today the Foundation has raised over £5.5 million.

What a fantastic achievement, one that has literally helped changed so many people’s lives with their drug trails for terminally ill people.

Everything the foundation does completely compliments the brilliant work of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, a charity very dear to my heart.

Thirteen years ago I along with five dear friends founded Breakthrough Suffolk.

Today we have proudly raised over £700,000.

Sadly, our best friend Sally Balch lost her battle with breast cancer. From the day Sally was diagnosed we all decided that everything we did with our fundraising had to be fun; boy oh boy have we had some fun along the way.

Many of our great supporters are here this evening and the breakthrough girls are, as always working here tonight. Thank you Helen and Chris, Bonk, Laura, Penny and Paul.

Having launched the second Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Campaign, we weren’t satisfied to raise the same amount again, this year; it of course had to be bigger and much better.

In addition to Sir Bobby’s Foundation and Breakthrough Breast Cancer we are supporting West Suffolk and Ipswich hospitals too.

With phone in hand I started making calls putting a committee of brilliant people together, some had worked on our first campaign and others thankfully agreed to join us.

Lance Bradley, agreed to be our chairman, he was also one of the first to donate a prize in 2011 and it was Lance who purchased the FIFA Ballon D’or. Thanks too for your great support.

Congratulations to you and Heather on your recent marriage.

This year’s campaign is certainly bigger and better. We have BT Sport and BT Mydonate to thank for agreeing to be our headline supporter and prize’s donor. I welcome those of you here from BT this evening and allowing us to have our launch at BT Tower, it really was a so special.

To Dom South and Claire Norris, from Greene King, who have been with us from day one and to Andy Wood and Adnams for joining us this year too; you have also kindly donated so many fantastic prizes.

To David Sheepshanks who introduced me to the FA; The Professional Footballers Association; FIFA; and The League Managers Association for embracing and profiling our campaign.

We would never have had the global awareness without our great media partners. To Archant and Terry Hunt and Russell Cook; BBC Radio Suffolk, to Mark Murphy, Stephen Foster and Peter Cook; to The Mail online, Anglian Radio; to BBC Look East and Sky News; to Mike and Kerry Ford from the Football Club magazine and Johnston Press, Barry Peters and his team.

To my friend of many, many years, and fellow committee member, a legend in his own right Alan Brazil, who talks about the auction on his talkSPORT breakfast show every day. A very big thank you to you all and I must also thank you all for your wonderful auction prizes.

David Bushnell made the mistake in March of asking if we needed his company Enable ITs help with our website and CRM system. Whatever will you do Simon, Dean, James and Jimmie next week when it is all over and our begging for help calls stop?

To George Wade and Neil Nixon from The Saleroom for sponsoring the global platform that delivers the online auction.

To James and Scott from Coastline Graphics for creating and sponsoring the fantastic signs throughout the town.

To John Dugmore for making sure every chamber of commerce member knew about the auction.

Behind every great fundraiser there are the unsung hereos.

Every great fundraising team has a committee and backroom team and they have done an outstanding job.

I must say special thank you’s to Chris Hollins - you have well and truly gone that extra mile on every level, we are so lucky and grateful to have you as our MC this evening.

Paul Milsom for getting over 45 auction prizes from his fellow hoteliers and for this evening’s delicious dinner from Talbooth catering.

Mark Robson, you must get so tired of my calls, you never hesitate to answer them and do whatever needs to be done or sorted.

I am indebted to David Sheepshanks who again got the Prime Minister’s support and in my time of need pulled out all stops and approached the many football clubs who had the audacity to not return my calls and emails. They certainly answered David’s calls.

To Deborah Cadman for making the time, working so hard supporting the auction and for your calls, giving me that extra much needed support, as did Dave Gooderham, Jan Bloomfield, Nick Harris, Richard Lindsey, Austin Cornish, Ian Gillespie and Alan Jones, who whilst working from Geneva made sure he helped us gain the national TV coverage we so badly needed.

Edward Crichton; I know you will be the showman that you are and persuade us all to spend lots of money this evening.

To Liz Luff, from Bobby’s Foundation, and to Leah Mates, Hannah, Sophie, Linzie and Liv, from Breakthrough for their great support each day.

When I asked Aileen Belsberg, Kirsty Downes, Carol Belsberg, Sue Smith and Jocelyn Clarke if they could help out with a little project they didn’t hesitate; little did they know in April how it would literally take over their lives.

Joss, if you recall it was when you, Sue Smith and I were being human sign posts at Milsoms’ fundraising Cyclothon that I discovered you were a data base expert.

You have all have worked relentlessly day and night in helping get the 330 auction prizes online. Each of you has so much to be proud of. Thanks to your husbands Tony, Steve and Les for helping this evening too.

Sue Wilcock you came in to manage the PR and unexpectedly had to run the entire show for three weeks too, you couldn’t have done a better or more professional job. I know you have put so much on hold making Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Campaign your priority.

This ball and the campaign wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the day-to-day support from my project director Adam Clark, who has worked so hard in the background, whilst running your own business; I so appreciate you and your great down to earth wisdom and guidance.

Sadly Graeme Swann, Liz Luff, Huw Davies and Mick Mills are unable to be with us this evening but they send you all their best wishes.

Special thanks must go to Sir Bobby’s players, who are here tonight Alan Brazil, Johnny Wark, Alan Hunter, Bryan Hamilton and Mick Lambert.

Can the committee and the backroom team and Bobby’s players stand up please and can I ask you all to join me in very loudly applauding them.

We have received some incredible prizes.

Thank you Delia and Michael and Norwich City for taking the time to be here this evening; you so generously offered the first auction prize this year too.

To Ralph and Holly Auchincloss, Pascale and Karine Canevet, Craig and Julie Jarvis, Duncan Foster, Heather Wilson, Sally Webb and Simon Milton for gaining Ipswich Town’s support; John and Carol Harris, Richard and Heather Houghton and Tony Molloy for flying in from New York to be here.

Thank you Shaun Brosnan for so generously donated your beautiful sculpture for our Golden Ticket prize, I know it’s worth an awful more than £10,000, one lucky person will be taking it home tonight.

Ben Mosley, the artist, you’re brilliant.

We have six of your fantastic paintings that you’ve painted specifically for Sir Bobby’s campaign, because Sir Bobby was your hero, thank you.

To all those wonderful people and companies who have so generously donated prizes for this year’s online auction and ball; it’s because of them all that we can do what we do.

Thank you to Mike and Liz Spencer and to Anna Straker for taking time out from the studio and for agreeing to perform tonight.

My sister Cherie Oldfield must take enormous credit for all she does in supporting me and our lives at Hall Farm.

My heartfelt thanks to Sam, Ali, James and Charles and to my darling husband Andrew who has allowed us all to work from his farm office never complaining and has supported me over the last 18 months while I eat, breath, sleep and even apparently, while sleeping, talk about the auction.

I am in no doubt that the success of the online auction and our campaign is down to one man and the love and respect the world has for Sir Bobby Robson. Lady Elsie thank for your personal input and support; you have been amazing.

Can I ask you all to please do continue to help us by spreading the word and encourage your friends, family and contacts to bid. The online auction closes Sunday evening from 7pm.

Thanks to each and every one of you for being here this evening, please I urge you all to dig very, very deep, because cancer is the most unwelcomed, unexpected visitor; it has no boundaries whatsoever, it is a wretched, naughty disease that sadly touches us all.

Every penny we raise we truly make the biggest difference in our fight against it and living a life without the fear of it.

Together we will help beat the Big C.

Thank you.”

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