A HOST of community projects were in for a pleasant surprise when they were handed a whopping £52,000 by the kind fundraisers behind the Charity Ball.

On Monday, the Ball’s 2016 beneficiaries gathered at the Marriott Hotel to receive what they believed would a generous share of the £40,000 they had been promised by the committee.

But thanks to record-breaking donations at the ball back in May and a £20,000 pledge from Imagine Cruising - which brought the grand total to an unprecedented £52,000 – they also walked away with a cut of the extra £12,000 raised.

“You always hope to smash it every year but that’s the biggest amount we’ve ever raised,” said newly-appointed committee chairman Adam Flint. “All the committee members, Rotary, Swindon Adver and Excalibur have worked so hard all year and when you finally get to hand over the cheques it’s really satisfying. You see what a difference it makes to the way the charities operate, how it changes lives and it’s so rewarding.

“It all goes to the people of Swindon, which is what makes the Charity Ball unique.”

This year’s beneficiaries - Olive Tree Café, Crowdys Hill School, Swindon Therapy Centre for MS, Headway Swindon and District, Dressability, Wessex Children’s Hospice Trust, Swindon & District Samaritans, Swindon 105.5, Hometruths and Swindon Dial a Ride – were presented with cheques ranging from £1,500 to £10,000.

Crowdys School was given £10,000 to create a sensory room in its new school building.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Trudy Topp, administration officer at the school. “This exciting new room will be a specialist environment, integrating lighting, sound, fragrancing, media projection and sensory integration equipment.”

The Olive Tree Cafe was awarded £3,300 towards a new oven.

“We are delighted that £3,300 has been approved by the Charity Ball Committee to purchase an oven and other smaller pieces of much needed kitchen equipment, all of which is crucial to the day to day running of the cafe and to the certificated training we offer our volunteers”, said cafe manager Phyllida Richards.

Over the past 28 years, the Charity Ball, which was founded by the Rotary Club of Swindon and the Swindon Advertiser, has raised more than £750,000 for 50 local charities.

Dial a Ride received £10,000 while Headway Swindon, which supports people affected by brain injury, was awarded £1,750 to create a quiet area at its new Dorcan headquarters.

"Thanks to the generosity of the event organisers and supporters, our vision of creating a quiet area in our new building at The Dorcan Complex can now be realised,” said centre manager Jane Weston.

The ball will enable us to provide a vital lifeline to even more local families affected by brain injury in Swindon and the surrounding areas."

Next year’s ball will be held on May 13 at the Marriott Hotel. Applications for funding will open in October. To be a sponsor or offer to match part of sum raised by the committee email Adam Flint at Adam.Flint@marriotthotels.com or call the Marriott on 01793 512121.