Big Carrow Road day for Benjamin Foundation
As well as the big names of Championship football, it was staff, service-users and volunteers from a Norfolk charity that took centre stage at Norwich City Football Club's 2-1 win against Reading on Saturday 12 February. For the second time in The Benjamin Foundation's 19 year history, the charity – which provides a range of services for children, young people and families throughout Norfolk - was given the opportunity by Aviva to share its sponsorship limelight for the day.
Aviva selected The Benjamin Foundation to be its local charity partner in 2010, but the two organisations first forged links when the charity won the first ever Eastern Daily Press Community Chest competition in 2008. Newspaper readers at that time voted for the Foundation, above several other local charities, to win a full-blown match sponsorship package at Carrow Road. The package included having The Benjamin Foundation logo on team shirts, being invited onto the pitch and being the beneficiary of a fundraising collection carried out on the day.
During the past year staff from Aviva in Norwich have raised thousands of pounds for The Benjamin Foundation including taking part in a Carlisle to Norwich fundraising cycle ride. Volunteers have also provided hundreds of hours of practical help: from helping out at Kidzone breakfast and after school clubs for children in North Walsham to painting and decorating the Sackhouse Special Needs Youth Group premises in Wells.
'Aviva was pleased to provide The Benjamin Foundation with the opportunity to showcase its work to Norwich City fans,' says Chris Elliott, Senior Sponsorship Manager at Aviva. 'As main club sponsor we worked, with the support of the club, to highlight the charity's work with young people. The Benjamin Foundation was chosen to be our regional charity partner as part of Aviva's global 'Street to School' campaign to support child homelessness in all the countries where we trade.'
On Saturday, The Benjamin Foundation's distinctive butterfly logo was seen around the Carrow Road stadium and within the match programme, and spectators were able to chat to staff and volunteers to find out more about what the charity does. Fans also had the chance to win a unique shirt signed by last year's League 1 Champions team, in a charity raffle.
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The Benjamin Foundation was founded in 1992 by Richard and Vanessa Draper in memory of their son Ben who died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 17. The charity exists to help people in Norfolk deal with many of the challenges that life throws at them; whether 'everyday' issues such as childcare or heartbreaking problems like abuse and homelessness. It provides a wide range of very practical services and support which all aim to empower people and give them back a sense of hope and control. From the Meet Up Cafe and community centre for children and families in Thetford to the Aspire Centre for homeless young people in Great Yarmouth; from Restore in Holt which operates as a social enterprise providing quality used furniture for those in need to Time4You, a county-wide, in-school support service for children who need someone to talk to about the problems they are facing; from the Resettlement Service which provides crisis support for those facing homelessness in Norfolk to BOOM which helps children with particular needs to access positive activities.
'The range of services we deliver is very diverse and can be quite difficult to summarise, especially as it is continually evolving to meet the changing needs of people in our county,' explains Richard Draper. 'But whatever the area of work, our team strives to provide not just practical solutions, but support, understanding and someone to lean on for people who, for one reason or another, are facing problems. Most importantly we provide opportunities, and work hard to help people grab those opportunities and change their lives for the better.'
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'Back in 2008, we never, ever thought we would have the opportunity to raise the, then, very small profile of The Benjamin Foundation in the tremendous way that the original Aviva sponsorship allowed us to do,' Richard continues. 'For Aviva to invite us back to the hallowed turf of Carrow Road for a second time is completely amazing, and we are incredible grateful. As we near the end of our official relationship with Aviva as its local charity partner, we feel fortunate to have made so many good friends amongst the staff and are grateful to those who have done so much to support us.'
Richard Draper concludes: 'The profile raising we have achieved through the support of Aviva and NCFC has been hugely significant for The Benjamin Foundation; the wonderful people of Norfolk are now far more involved with us. At a time when the budget for Children's Services work is being cut, we're becoming more and more dependent on public support to enable us to develop and deliver the services we have.'