RAF Akrotiri Charity Dinner Night – April 2014

The RAF Akrotiri Charity Dinner Night is an annual event that precedes the RAF Akrotiri Rugby 10’s tournament.  This was the second year that R4H had been involved as one of the charities to benefit from funds raised by the Dinner Night.

This year’s ambassadors were Huw Bennett, with 51 Welsh Caps and Gary Halpin with 12 hard fought Irish Caps from back in the days when substitutes weren’t used!.  The guys followed in the footsteps of ‘Big’ Jim Hamilton, Nikki Little and ‘Sharky’ Mark Robinson who represented the Charity last year.  The remainder of the visit party included Spike Quant, who sits on the R4H committee and the guys were accompanied by their wives, Carol and Claire.

RAF Akrotiri was very welcoming and had a week of organised activity that would have the guys interacting and meeting with up with lots of different people.  First up was an interview on British Forces Broadcasting Services radio where Gary and Hugh’s knowledge was found wanting during an impromptu quiz (lots of kiss ball questions!!).  A visit to the local Primary School followed where the guys were further quizzed by the children during a full assembly and then it was off to visit the American facilities on base.  The best bit of this visit was a rare opportunity for the guys to be driven down the main runway at over 100MPH and chase one of the American aircraft as it took off; an amazing experience!!

The highpoint of the visits was watching a full aerobatic display by the famous Red Arrows whilst standing on the cliffs and then meeting the guys afterwards and sitting in on their team’s debrief.

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Gary and Huw meet the Red Arrows

After this awesome display the guys were then whisked off to meet the children at the famous Flamingos Rugby Club and spend a couple of hours coaching them, chatting with the families and signing shirts etc.

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Huw and Gary Coaching the youth at the Flamingo’s Rugby Club

The climax of the week was the Charity Dinner Night when over 250 people sat down in the Officers’ Mess for a cracking night of entertainment.  Gary and Hugh were centre stage and by this time the guys were well known, so it made it very easy for them to mingle with all the guests.  The food was excellent and the local Keo beer was flowing freely, which certainly helped when it come to the auction.  The Charity had sourced some excellent memorabilia including 3 signed shirts: Welsh Legends, Geoff Hurst and football legend Messi, and with Gary and Huw encouraging the crowd to dig deep the Welsh Legends shirt went for €1500!!! Huw managed to squeeze into a Red Arrows flying suit (which Claire was disappointed he didn’t buy!) and the surprise auction item of the night was a pair of Huw’s shorts, signed by the Welsh World Cup Squad, which fetched a handsome €700!!

The star of the show on the night was Gary who accompanied by Huw and the rest of the crowd sang a rousing rendition of Wild Rover whilst playing the guitar.  You can find this on YouTube or click on this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGBaBGQzxN0

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Gary and Huw Singing the Wild Rover

All in all the Charity Dinner Night was a great success with the R4H’s ambassadors doing a fantastic job to raise the profile of the Charity and on the nigh helped raise over €3000 that will be put towards a deserving cause.  The planning for next year’s event is already under way.

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