The day of the Caudwell Ball dawned and we got up filled with excitement and anticipation as our first magical moment was to meet Peter Andre at the Grosvenor Hotel. It was definitely going to be a 'pinch me, I must be dreaming' sort of a day, made all the more precious because we so nearly didn't make it. We caught a London bus up to Oxford Circus, taking in all the sights along the way. I just can't get over how brilliant it is that every bus is wheelchair accessible, and even free for Tilly! We managed to buy a pair of 'Hannah Montana' sandals for Tilly for the Ball as she decided that she did not want to wear her purple, sparkling plaster cast.
We strolled along Oxford Street and along to the Grosvenor Hotel where the paparazzi were camped outside waiting for the celebrities attending the Ivor Novello Awards. Such a buzz! We made our way around to the back where Ben from the Caudwell Children warmly greeted us and directed us to the suite where we would be meeting Peter Andre. My heart was in my mouth. However, I needn't have been anxious as the room was filled with familiar faces from the Charity and new families who were on this magical adventure with us. John Caudwell and his partner Claire arrived and were so relaxed and friendly that it was hard to imagine that they were soon to be hosting their Butterfly Ball.
With a small film crew in tow, the moment we'd all been waiting for arrived, and Peter Andre joined us. He was beautiful - so genuinely interested in the children; so obviously happy to be with us, and so keen to see just how he could make a difference. Peter Andre was charming and delightful and such a pleasure to meet. There is no doubt that he has an affinity with our world of special needs and will do everything he can to support the Caudwell Children. Before he left he kindly signed Tilly's plaster cast and said he'd catch us later as he would be singing at the Ball.
An elegantly suited doorman hailed a cab and we winged our way back to our hotel to get ready for the Ball. My tummy was really starting to tingle, with my over-riding fear that I wouldn't be able to 'do' Tilly's hair to her satisfaction, but with a little extra help from our friends at the Ball, I think we got away with it. Tilly looked exquisite and felt a million dollars - a tribute to our special friend Andrea and Mich, Tilly's 'fairy' Godmother who'd devoted many hours to 'blinging' Tilly's ballgown and accessories. The afternoon sun shone down as we made our way out to our waiting taxi that Daddie had summoned. It felt really strange and very exciting to be making our way amongst the casually dressed tourists at five in the afternoon in our ballgowns and there were many 'ooohhs' and 'aaahhhs' as we told intrigued passers-by about the Butterfly Ball. We couldn't contain ourselves as we were bubbling over with glee.
The Ball took place in Battersea's Evolution arena alongside the River Thames which seemed to be extra twinklie in recognition of the occasion. The Caudwell Children's Team had been working on the layout and interior decoration for a couple of days and it looked fantastic. The setting was breathtakingly glamorous with butterflies and twinkling lights adorning the magnificently laid dining tables. I still couldn't believe that we were actually going to be part of such a spectacular evening. What a privilege; what a lucky family we are!
The first item of the auction display that I saw was Tilly's Soulscape which looked magnificent, illuminated in soft lighting. The Artist, Louis Parsons, greeted me and we nervously hugged and prayed that his wonderful work and Tilly's collage would inspire the audience and hopefully raise £20,000.00 - enough to buy another child a wheelchair just like Tilly's. I wandered around the collection marvelling at the eye-watering, rare and priceless items up for auction.
We made our way through to the Champagne Reception and marvelled at the constant stream of Stars that filled the room - Dame Shirely Bassey, Bruce Forsythe, Colin Jackson, Lulu, Liz Hurley, Peter Andre, Lee Pearson, to name but a few. They all looked stunning and were very friendly as they took time to chat with us and the other families present. I could hardly believe it was real as it felt just like a glorious dream, especially with Julian Smith playing his saxophone so beautifully. It was spine tingling.
We made our way to dine and shared our table with two other families from Staffordshire which was wonderful as we could indulge in our over-brimming amazement; openly marvel at our unbelievable situation; squeal with delight at the menu and 'spot' celebrities without fear of looking 'uncool'! It was heaven! Especially as many of the stars like The Duchess of York, Penny Lancaster, Lisa Voice and Jonathan Wilkes stopped by our table to chat. By now I was black and blue with pinching myself as it was all just too good to be true. To add to the magic Julian Smith returned to play and Peter Andre serenaded us through dinner.
The buzz and chatter of the room, however, was brought to a respectful silence as John Caudwell led the speeches and introduced the film sequences featuring families who have been supported by the Caudwell Children. It was very moving and gave an insight into the work of the Charity, and a strong reminder of why we were all attending the Butterfly Ball.
The all-important Auction then swung into animated action with fantastic sums of money being offered for awe-inspiring lots, such as Robbie Williams' Brit Award. Then came the moment that was causing butterflies in my tummy - as it was time to go up on stage with John Caudwell and see if Tilly and Louis's artwork could work some magic. It was nerve-wracking back-stage waiting for our slot as I worried that the bids wouldn't come in, or that Tilly might 'freeze' and not be able to say a few words to the audience. Nerves were slightly eased with the good news that Sir Elton John had kindly signed Tilly's "Butterfly, You're Free to Fly" picture as the work was inspired by his lyrics in "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." The tension was further eased by Daddie's 'off the wall' banter with Louis, who was also feeling tense as he waited to present his work on stage. Louis thought that Tilly and I looked remarkably calm - little did he know that our knees were knocking.
With a deep breath and a big smile we entered the stage and John Caudwell magnificently managed the bidding, selling the artwork with every fibre of his heart and soul, imploring the audience to dig deep and make bids of £20,000.00 at a time. The bidding crept up and then John invited Tilly to explain just what her powerchair means to her. With Daddie by her side holding the microphone, Tilly quietly told everyone that her powerchair does not just 'get her across a room', but it allows her live a full life - to be a ballerina, a mountaineer, a sailor - her powerchair sets her free. The bidding soared to a massive £380,000.00. It was mind-blowing.
I am so very proud of my little girl and so in awe of John Caudwell who has created this Charity and makes such magic happen. He could just chose to sail away on his luxury yacht with his beautiful family, but instead he works tirelessly for our children, ceaselessly trying to engage others in a similar position to do the same. He covers all the running costs of the Charity which employs a dynamic and caring team who energetically deliver his vision on a daily basis. Its wonderful to know that every penny donated is intelligently used and goes entirely to the Children. John Caudwell was the brightest Star of the night and is the hero of thousands of families across the country, especially ours!
With knees still knocking it was more 'pinch me' moments as we were invited backstage to meet Sir Elton John! I can remember dancing to Crocodile Rock as a little girl in my front room in New Malden. Elton John's music has featured in the many chapters throughout my life, and here was I poised to meet the great man himself. I was hardly able to breathe as the door opened and this Superstar made his way towards us with a big smile. He was lovely - so warm and natural; willing to talk; sign autographs and pose for photographs with obvious pleasure. Yet the biggest treat was yet to come as he made his way up on stage and took his seat behind his piano.
We were situated right behind Sir Elton John, next to the stage, close enough for Rolf to read which song would be coming up next. In such pole position Sir Elton certainly knocked our socks off! He was absolutely faultless. With no backing singers; no musicians; no dancers; no fancy costume changes; no gimmicks - just Sir Elton and his piano. He sang all the favourite songs we wanted to hear, just as we hoped we hear them - familiar and flawless; and his mastery of the keyboard was phenomenal. He performed with sincerity, style, energy and humour for over an hour and I've got to say that it was one of the finest hours of my life. I felt so honoured and privileged to have been so close to such a brilliant musician who was performing to help families just like ours. I looked at my beautiful Tilly whose eyes were shining with admiration as she sang along to the songs and I was overwhelmed with emotion. What a night! We shall never be able to thank the Charity enough for such an amazing experience.
As we prepared to leave it was announced that the Butterfly Ball had raised a record-breaking £1.75 million for Caudwell Children. This magnificent achievement is a credit to John Caudwell and his dedicated Team and to all those who gave so much of themselves, weather they be rich and famous, or not. It seems to me that a good time was had by all. We certainly had a ball!