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ACLT Gift of Life Ball

October 23, 2009 by  

The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) annual Gift of Life Ball (GOL) was held 11th October 2009, it was the 10th and final Fundraising Charity Ball and here we have a review of the spectacular night writted by Ms D. Knox who has attended the GOL for the past 6 years.

ACLT Gift of Life ball, the 10th and final one.

I have attended several GOL balls over the past few years, the Grand Finale was a “must do” social event. The ACLT event is like a friends and family reunion, full of positive vibes and brings together people with a true understanding of the gift of life that we all have and the potential gift of life that we may give to another person through giving blood or becoming a donor. Following the passing of Daniel De Gale in October 2008, his parents and the ACLT founders Bevererly De Gale and Orin Lewis agreed to arrange this final tribute ball.

The lead up to any ball is standard for all women, it is all about the dress and the hair and the shoes! Will it be a fitted sparkly sequin dress, cocktail style glamour or full length ball gown. Then there is the jewellery and other accessories. Part of the fun is bumping into fellow ball attendees at shopping centres days before the ball still in search for that little something, something….pricesless!

The ball night arrives and the venue is the Altitude 360, which is on the 29th floor of the Millbank tower in Westminster. Truly an amazing venue with as the name suggests a 360 view over London. Approaching the party area we were greeted by hosts welcoming us to the event and offering to take our coats, actually there were no coats only furs (don’t call PETA they were fake!).

The champagnes reception was in full swing at 6.30pm, waiters were on hand to refill your glass after just one sip. There was a constant flash of cameras, hugs and kisses as you met old friends and shaking hands with a few new ones. ACLT Patron Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson was happily working the room, taking photgraphs and greeting the ball attendees. The room was filled with a positive happy vibe and a buzz of excitement at what was to come.

Dinner time! The hosts called everyone through to the dining area and we found our table with a good view of the stage and adjacent to the bar…bliss! Our table consisted of 9 women and 1 gentleman, with a variety of professions ranging from hairdresser, stylist and bankers to Radio and TV presenter. As all (except for the token man) had starved ourselves in the weeks prior to the ball, the bread and starters were devoured in minutes it was like magic, now you see it now you don’t! The food was excellent representing a Caribbean essences featuring delights such as a Salt fish Terrine, Spicy slow cooked lamb, puree of yam and sweet potato and a wonderful Coconut cheesecake.

Brenda Emmanus hosted the evening events and introduced several speakers including a keynote address by Sarah Ferguson reminding us of the reason for GOL and of course remembering Daniel. Speakers in previous balls had brought many attendees to tears hearing their story of their search for a donor or the success of finding a match. The anticipation of what was to come this time was intense, with all social events there is always background noises, chatting etc. but an instant hush fell over the 29th floor of the Millbank Towere when Daniel was shown on the many plasma screens around the room.

The clips shown included the London News coverage of his funeral, pictures of him at previous balls and the music video made by Daniel aka Playzo and his friends on their holiday in Aya Napa. Surprisingly I found myself smiling and not crying as I remembered his cheeky face and the compliments he would always give to us ladies each year on our attire or the football banter. As Orin, Beverly and his sister Dominique said this is a celebration of his life and of the work the ACLT has done so far and will continue to do in the future.

Excellent performances from Beverley Knight, comedian Eddie Kadi, classical operatta Thomas Spencer-Wortley, MOBO award winning Saxophonist Yolanda Brown, which was followed by the fund raising section which included an auction and raffle. Orin closed the dinner part of the evening thanking the donors who were present, the ACLT family, organisers, event management and crew leading us onto the party!

The DJ was already in place and started the evening with none other than Michael Jackson. The dance floor was immediately filled and within about 10 minutes you heard the familiar sound of the Candy intro! You know the O2 adverts with all of the dancers in the train station, they have nothing on these candy veterans! Lined up in seconds with about 30 leaders shouting which way to go first, all you can do is find a space, clench your toes to save them from someone who always goes the wrong way (For anyone who does not know – you move to the right first and you don’t start until the singing starts).

We danced to all genres of music till 3am. Orin gave a few closing words to thank everyone for coming and wishing us a safe journey home. The evening ended with more group photographs, goodbye hugs and kisses before collecting our goodie bags, coats (faux furs) and hobbled to the awaiting cars to take us home.

The ACLT gift of life ball was truly a night we will never forget, everyone should always celebrate the gift of life.

Please see the ACLT website for donor/blood drives and future events.

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