The Belfast Harbour Commissioners Building was the opulent setting for an evening of fine gourmet dining, harnessing the culinary talents of some of the country’s top chefs in a sumptuous seven course banquet to raise money for charity.
Over one hundred lovers of fine food and wine gathered to “Share Their Dinner With S.A.M.”, in the process raising vital funds for local charity Struggle Against Muscular Dystrophy (S.A.M.).
S.A.M. was set up in 2008 following the diagnosis of local child Sam McCausland (now 6) with a rare form of the muscle wasting disease Congenital Muscular Dystrophy (C.M.D.). Children who suffer from CMD exhibit severe and progressive muscle weakness, often from birth, are eventually confined to a wheelchair, require ventilator assistance to breathe, experience severe cardiac problems and often have reduced life expectancy. There are currently no effective treatments for the disease.
The charity’s mission is to raise money to invest in research which will help improve scientific understanding of the disease and enable researchers to move closer to the development of effective treatments to help children who are affected by this devastating neuromuscular disease.
The gourmet evening was the brainchild of Lisburn businessman, Shane Smith, a self-confessed ‘foodie’ who runs the successful ‘YES CHEF’ publication which has recently expanded into Southern Ireland and Scotland.
Shane explained: “My experience in successful fundraising through many years of involvement in the Hillsborough Oyster Festival Committee, including two years as Chairperson, gave me the impetus to organise a lavish evening of superb food, prepared by magnificent chefs, and featuring the very best of local ingredients – an event previously unrivalled in N. Ireland in terms of sheer culinary excellence”.
“To all of those involved in making the evening such a success I extend my deepest gratitude” continued Shane. “Many of our world-class chefs, including Simon Dougan, Justin Galea, Joery Castel, Noel McMeel and Raymond McArdle, agreed to provide their expertise for the evening at their own expense. Student chefs from Belfast Metropolitan College assisted in the kitchen, preparing canapés and one young chef, Alexandra Henderson, won the honour of preparing a course for the evening’s guests. Immense thanks must also go to our suppliers who jumped at the chance, even in these difficult times, to supply our ingredients”.
Shane was keen that the event should have a strong fundraising focus and, having previously worked with S.A.M., he felt that the charity was a good fit for what he hopes will be the first of many fundraising events of this kind.
“There are no words to describe how proud I am to have worked to create this wonderful event for such a terrific cause. What appealed to me about the S.A.M. charity is their ‘zero cost’ ethos – everyone involved in the charity gives freely of their time, resources and skills, meaning that every penny they raise is put to work – none of the money from people’s donations goes on overheads or administration. In today’s tight economy that is so important.”
Thanks to phenomenal support from local people S.A.M. provided a number of major research grants between 2009 and 2011. One of the research projects funded by these grants turned out to be a ground-breaking study with the potential to lead researchers to an effective treatment for the disease. To date the charity has raised and invested almost £400,000 in research.
Sam’s mum and founder of the S.A.M. charity, Tracy McCausland said:
“We are so very grateful to Shane and all those who had a role to play in this very successful evening. We are always overwhelmed by the way people really get behind our cause and by their generosity, particularly in challenging economic times when it is more and more difficult for all charities to raise money. We really need to sustain the level of investment in research to find a cure for this horrible disease… without this the thousands of children whose lives are impacted by muscular dystrophy face a future that none of us would want for our child. The work we are doing in raising money to fund research through the S.A.M. charity gives me hope. I dream that one day all of the children who suffer from C.M.D. will have a real chance of having a brighter future than the one currently predicted for them.”
For further information on SAM please go to www.helpsam.info or contact Tracy McCausland on 07809 467890.