North East charity Foundation of Light welcomed Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, GCVO to a trio of events which showcased the very best of community engagement earlier this month.

The Foundation’s Royal Patron officially opened the Beacon of Light, meeting with those who are benefitting from the £20 million community facility, as well as organisations, local companies and charity supporters who were vital in making the eight-year project a reality.

A long-time supporter of the Foundation, the Countess joined CEO Lesley Spuhler OBE on a tour of the Beacon, which opened its doors in 2018, spending time with children and families who were taking part in a range of activities from playing football on the rooftop 4G pitch to cooking healthy meals in the new Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food Kitchen.

Commenting on the day, Foundation Chair of Trustees, Sir Bob Murray CBE said: “We were thrilled that Her Royal Highness, Countess of Wessex officially opened the Beacon of Light. During the visit The Countess met with lots of local people, staff and key benefactors and partners.

“The Countess has been Patron of the Foundation of Light since 2003, so it was wonderful to welcome her to see the Beacon alive and vibrant with the many different types of activities that will help to enrich local people’s lives.”

Following the official opening ceremony, The Countess was guest of honour at the Foundation’s first Gala Awards Dinner, which celebrated the achievements and impact the charity has made to North East lives over the past year.

Among those at the event we North East footballing legends Kevin Phillips, Kevin Ball, Dick Malone, and Sunderland AFC manager Jack Ross accompanied by some of his players for the evening hosted by Sky Sports presenter David Jones and Brit Award-winning singer and songwriter Faye Tozer-Smith.

Sponsored by Harrison Centre for Social Mobility, participants and learners from the Foundation’s range of sports, health and education programmes shared their inspiring and heart-warming stories during the evening.

The Gala Awards Dinner was followed by ‘An Evening with Sir Tim Rice and Friends’ with the Oscar-winning Foundation of Light trustee entertaining the room with animated tales about some his best-loved songs from shows such as the Lion King, Evita and Jesus Chris Superstar, which were performed live by artists from London’s West End.

Speaking about the day, Foundation of Light CEO, Lesley Spuhler commented: “It has been an incredible day where we have been able to demonstrate how football and sport is being used to improve lives in our region, highlight the achievements of our organisation and the people we work with, and finally celebrate the completion of the Beacon of Light surrounded by our friends and supporters.

“It was an honour to welcome Her Royal Highness to the Beacon of Light and thank her for her vital support.”

The Beacon of Light’s versatile indoor arena is capable of hosting: business events and industry expos; dinner and music events; grassroots sports; professional national sports tournaments; and much more.

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