Six figure sum raised at the Rockinghorse Ball

Stunning masks of all shapes and sizes were worn by guests attending a masquerade gala dinner in aid of Rockinghorse children’s charity at the weekend.

350 guests filled The Empress Suite – decorated with Venetian glitz and glamour by Dazzling Décor and Mascol Events – at The Grand Hotel in Brighton.

Hosted by MC Danny Pike from BBC Sussex and Surrey, an incredible £101,000 was raised during the evening. A live auction accompanied by a silent auction was filled with must-have items for successful bidders, contributing to the total amount raised.

Entertainment came courtesy of live music from female four-piece ‘Accordi String Quartet’ ensemble, who has performed alongside Andrea Bocelli and Emeli Sande amongst others. They were followed by big band favourites ‘Down for The Count’, who had everyone up on their feet as guests danced the night away after a successful evening of fundraising. 

Funds were being raised for Rockinghorse’s projects across Sussex, including the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) in Brighton.

The charity is the official fundraising arm of the Alex and a vital supporter of the neighbouring Trevor Mann Baby Unit. Its support extends to children’s wards in hospitals across Sussex, as well as neonatal units, respite centres and specialist paediatric services in the county.

Since its inception in 1967, Rockinghorse has raised millions of pounds for these services in over half a century. The charity primarily raises funds for life-saving and cutting-edge medical equipment with a focus on children’s physical and emotional well-being, as well as providing additional support for parents and carers.

During the evening, guests raised over £13,000 specifically for Oxygen Saturation Monitors to benefit the Alex. These essential items of equipment are used by all departments across the children’s hospital. They cost £500 each and are invaluable for monitoring children with various respiratory conditions as well as assessing children post-operatively.

Six figure sum raised at the Rockinghorse Ball
Rockinghorse CEO Ryan Heal

Speaking at the Ball, Ryan Heal, Chief Executive of Rockinghorse, said:

“By supporting our numerous projects at the Alex, you are directly contributing to the improved care and services for our children. We refuse to stand by and see the Alex without the equipment it needs to give our children the best possible care, no matter what the financial or political backdrop engulfing the NHS.

“Our link to the Alex goes back to day one of Rockinghorse. This wonderful children’s hospital continues to be recognised as a centre of excellence in the region. So many people here in the room tonight have directly experienced the work of the Alex and I say thank god for its existence. Trust me, you never know when you’re going to need it!”

Parents Kerry and John Leppard from Haywards Heath understand this only too well. As special guests at the Ball, Kerry delivered a poignantly moving speech to the room about how Rockinghorse and the Alex have supported her family.

Their daughter Florence was diagnosed with a liver tumour aged just two-years-old. Her diagnosis was confirmed as Hepatocellular Carcinoma, which is a rare cancer in children with a poor prognosis.

What ensued was an epic journey for Florence which included seven cycles of chemotherapy, as she also had a secondary disease in both her lungs. Kerry and John were made no promises, but a miracle was worked, and Florence underwent vital surgery to remove the tumour along with two-thirds of her liver.

In the aftermath, the family were struggling to find help to support Florence. They were delighted to hear that Rockinghorse were behind a pioneering role to fully fund a children’s psychologist within the Oncology service at the Alex.

The Rockinghorse Clinical Psychologist, Dr Alice Emond, has now been supporting Florence for six months and whilst putting her at the centre of the treatment, the sessions are equipping them with all the right tools to respond to the challenges.

Kerry said:

“Florence is soon to be eight-years-old and is in year three at school. In the aftermath of her cancer, it was clear she needed psychological support. Dr Alice Emond, the Rockinghorse Clinical Psychologist, provides a safe place for Florence to be heard and she understood the emotional impact the illness has had on her.

“The response has been quite amazing, and we are so very grateful. This simply wouldn’t have happened without Rockinghorse and thanks to their support, many more children and their families will be able to cope with the numerous pressures and strains that constantly surround such a painful diagnosis.”

Kerry’s story helped the charity’s supporters to understand where their fundraising goes and the hugely positive impact it has on hundreds of families just like hers.

Over 40 members of staff from the Alex attended the Rockinghorse Ball and received a standing ovation for the incredible work they do to improve the lives of poorly babies, children and young people.

To find out more about Rockinghorse and how you can help them support sick and disadvantaged children in Sussex, visit