A CHARITY fundraiser held in memory of a Newport teacher and rugby player who died aged just 29 was a big success, raising thousands for cancer care.

Thomas Groombridge, of High Cross, was told just over three weeks ago that a cancerous tumour on his spine had spread to his brain.

He was scheduled to start further treatment at Velindre Cancer Centre last Monday, but died at the Royal Gwent Hospital in the early hours of March 2, surrounded by his two sisters, Julia and Sarah, his brother Andrew, and his mother, Avril.

The charity race night on Saturday at the Newport Fugitives Athletic Club saw around 200 people turn out to show support for Mr Groombridge.

Guests were a mix of friends, family and members of local rugby clubs, including those from Newbridge and Rogerstone,with money raised going to Velindre and the ‘Spur’ ward at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff where Mr Groombridge was treated.

His close friend, Ryan Oliver, 27, said: “The night was a big success. The total money raised last night was upwards of £7,000 with money still coming in over the next week and ahead of the funeral on March 18.”

It was in October 2011 when Mr Groombridge, known to most of his friends as Tom, was preparing to go onto the rugby pitch for Rogerstone RFC when he thought something might be wrong with his bladder.

He eventually played the whole match but decided to get himself checked out by a doctor the next day where a benign tumour, the size of a pea, was found on the bottom of his spine.

He had found work at Abertillery Primary School in September 2011, but a matter of months later had to stop due to the discovery of the tumour, which doctors said could have been there since birth. He had intended to return to his job as a teacher on a full-time basis in September.

The charity night included a DVD horse race session, a raffle and an auction with prizes worth thousands of pounds including £50 meal vouchers for Nandos, Celtic Manor day passes, and £100 worth of hair products.

Mr Oliver said: “We had very generous donations with auction items including two signed Welsh shirtsfor 2013 and 2014, and boxing gloves used by Nathan Cleverly. It was a really nice day and everybody gave generously.”

“People just kept walking up and chucking money in buckets.”

Tom spent a few months in rehabilitation at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff, which specialises in spinal injuries, where he remained until Christmas.

Mr Oliver said: “The money will go to Rockwood Hospital’s spinal unit on the Spur ward where Tom was in. It will go towards buying equipment for the gym and stuff they need for the ward.”

Mr Oliver said Tom would be shocked and proud at how many people went to the event to show their support.

To donate, visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tomrrfc