IN THE LINEOUT (L-R) Rob Andrew, John Taylor, Jayne Torvill, Tree of Hope’s Gill Gibb and Chris Cowdrey

CHILDREN’S charity Tree of Hope kicked off the celebrations for its 25th anniversary with a Sporting Heroes Lunch at The Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

Former Kent and England cricket captain Chris Cowdrey also acted as MC for the event, while the three other heroes were legendary Olympic figure skater Jayne Torvill and two British & Lions rugby players, John Taylor of Wales and England’s Rob Andrew.

Tree of Hope, based in Tonbridge, supports the families of seriously ill and disabled children who need specialist medical treatment, therapy and equipment which is not available on the NHS.

Gill Gibb, Chief Executive of Tree of Hope, told the story of two children the charity supports: 17-year-old Kelly Turner, who has a rare form of cancer and is raising money for a lifesaving operation in New York which is not -available through the UK healthcare system; and three-year-old Harmonie-Rose Allen, a quadruple amputee who has funds to provide a lifetime of prosthetic limbs as she grows.

There was a live and silent auction during the lunch which raised over £10,000. Ms Gibb said: “We are delighted with the support we received from everyone who attended the Sporting Heroes lunch and for helping it to be a great success.

“A special thank you also goes out to all our Sporting Heroes who provided the audience with some great anecdotes and made the lunch even more special.”

Chris Cowdrey commented: “As someone living locally and the father of twin boys, I have been aware for some time of the tremendous work Tree of Hope does to raise funds for children suffering from a disability or illness.

“All children are incredibly special, and I wanted to pledge my support in whatever way I could to help this amazing charity to continue their great work.”

To find out more about Tree of Hope, go to www.treeofhope.org.uk