Guests enjoyed a Sportsman's Dinner with special guest John Barnes at Bliss Hotel in Southport to raise money for the Make A Change For Ben campaign. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

Generous fundraisers who enjoyed a glittering Sportsman’s Dinner with special guest speaker John Barnes last night raised a staggering £14,000 for the Make A Change Ben campaign. 

The evening, which took place at Bliss Hotel in Southport, was sponsored by Southport Pleasureland owner Norman Wallis. 

Mr Wallis then donated his sponsor’s table and private drinks reception with John Barnes back to the organisers, with the sponsorship opportunity taken up by Karl Diamond, owner of Retro Bar in Southport. 

Scores of guests enjoyed a drinks reception followed by a delicious three course meal, before a speech by former Liverpool FC and England star John Barnes, with compere Jed Stone expertly leading the evening. 

Local musician and singer Matt Fearon entertained guests throughout the night with his superb entertainment. 

Guests bid for a range of incredible auction and raffle prizes, which included signed shirts and boots from football legends including Sir Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard, Ronaldo and Jamie Carragher, along with unique items from boxing stars such as Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. 

The moving event was held to raise money for Make A Change For Ben, which aims to carry out urgent improvements to the Botanic Gardens in Churchtown in Southport. 

The campaign was launched by David Rawsthorne after his best friend, Ben Smith-Crallan, died after falling into the lake at the park. He was just 37 years old. 

Work is already taking shape, with two water aeration fountains due to be installed. 

The money raised last night will ensure that more safety work at the historic park can be carried out for the benefit of thousands of local families. 

The Sportsman’s Dinner was organised by a team of campaigners including Ben’s cousin, Lucy Smith-Crallan, Anna Matthews, Jess Thwaites and David Rawsthorne. 

They said: “We would like to thank everyone for their attendance, support and donations for last night’s Sportsman’s Dinner sponsored by Pleasureland in honour of Ben Smith-Crallan and the Make a change for Ben campaign.

“The turnout was incredible, the room was a sell-out and we can’t wait to let everyone know how much was raised.

“John Barnes was outstanding and lots of fun was had throughout the evening.

“We would also thank Jed Stone for his superb hosting of the evening and of course the Bliss Hotel.

“We couldn’t be prouder of what’s been achieved by Ben’s friends and family.

“Thank you to David Rawsthorne, Lucy Smith-Crallan and Anna Matthews for all of your efforts pulling the evening together.

“On behalf of the entire campaign team we are delighted with the community support and look forward to seeing the money raised put to good use in Botanic Gardens for enjoyment of everyone who visits.” 

David Rawsthorne said: “The Sportsman’s Dinner was a great night. After months of hard work to get to this point I’m absolutely delighted it was such a great success. Huge thanks to John Barnes, but in my mind the evening was all for my best friend Ben.”

Southport Pleasureland owner Norman Wallis, who sponsored the fundraising event for Ben, said: “The evening is dedicated to raising money to support the change the campaign is aimed at delivering cleaning up the lake at the Botanic Gardens where Ben slipped into the water, cut his leg and later sadly passed away. No-one should have to go through that. 

“The campaigners are working so hard to raise enough funds to get the work completed.”

Ben’s cousin Lucy Smith-Crallan said: “We were thrilled when Mr Wallis offered to step in as headline sponsor just four weeks ahead of the event. He topped that by giving up the table included in the sponsorship package to allow us another route to raising funds. It was incredibly kind and we were so touched. We can’t thank him enough.”

Suzanne Rawsthorne said: “What a fabulous evening, everyone was so generous and John Barnes was great!”


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1 Comment
  1. Suzanne Rawsthorne 8 months ago

    What a fabulous evening, everyone was so generous and John Barnes was great!

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