THE arrival of musicians, rugby legends, television stars and even Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke has allowed a Newport-based charity to double the number of young people it can help.
The Gareth Thomas Foundation dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on Saturday has raised enough money for Life Music Foundation to run for another three years.
The exact figure raised by the dinner isn't yet known, but the auction alone raised around £20,000 for the charity.
This included a pair of boxing gloves signed by Newbridge world champion boxer Joe Calzaghe which were bought for £5,000 by Celebrity Big Brother’s Frankie Cocozza.
A fitness session with Calzaghe also went for £2,000 and a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes went for £2,000.
The Newport-based charity was set up by local businessmen Daniel O’Connell and Clayton Richards and has Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas as its president.
The charity aims to provide young people with access to music and sport through things such as tuition or equipment.
Mr O’Connell said the charity currently helps around 200 youngsters a month but can nowdouble this. The aim is also to create a similar charity in Mr Thomas’ home town, Bridgend, and Mr O’Connell said it is such a unique idea that it could go global.
Mr Thomas invited a host of celebrities including Dane Bowers, Nicola McLean, Kirk Norcross and Natasha Giggs. Tickets were available to members of the public, who had a chance to mingle with the likes of The Wrestler’s Mickey Rourke, who has made a personal donation to the charity.
Mr Rourke and his girlfriend, Anastassija Makarenko, Joe Calzaghe, Gareth Thomas and fellow rugby star Gareth Williams sampled Newport night-life on Friday with a meal at Rossini’s, in Clarence Place.
The restaurant’s owner, Tony Castaldo, said: “It was a really good evening. They came about 7pm and stayed till about 11.30pm.”
He said: “Mickey Rourke made a great effort. He was jetlagged but he was really courteous and nice.”
Mr Castaldo said that half of the restaurant followed Rourke each time he went outside for a cigarette.
He added: “It was surreal really to think that Mickey Rourke wasn’t eating in London, Paris or New York but in Newport.
“Newport has had a lot of bad press and it’s such a breath of fresh air to put Newport on the map with something like that.”
EDITORIAL COMMENT: A glittering example
WHAT fantastic news that bringing a touch of Hollywood glamour to Newport has secured the future of a city charity for at least three years.
Movie star Mickey Rourke was the star turn at the Celtic Manor at the weekend at a glitzy charity dinner to raise money for the Gareth Thomas Foundation.
Formerly the Life Music Foundation, the charity provides disadvantaged young people with access to music and sport.
Saturday’s dinner – a tribute toWales rugby legend Gareth Thomas, who has lent his name to the charity – raised £20,000 from an auction alone.
The charity helps around 200 youngsters a month in and around Newport.
Founder Daniel O’Connell says the funds raised at the weekend will double this.
There are also plans to open a branch of the charity in Mr Thomas’ home town of Bridgend.
As well as Mr Rourke, there were a host of celebrities and sports stars at the dinner.
The amount raised during the auction shows how important celebrity patrons can be for small charities.
Renaming the charity and having Mr Thomas as its president will continue to raise its profile.
Saturday’s cash total is a fantastic achievement for the Foundation. Well done to them and to everyone who dipped into their pockets on the night.