In recognition of the achievements and hard work of volunteers, YLF held its first celebration dinner as a thank you to them all, sponsored and donated by The Mercure Hotel, Maidstone.
Over 230 guests came together for an evening of musical entertainment, presentations, dinner and dancing, to celebrate with the charity that is grateful for the dedication, time and difference its volunteers make to the lives of the children and adults they support.
The evening was hosted by Rob Wills, drivetime presenter at kmfm, who had the guests up on their feet, doing jazz hands, and also in fits of laughter throughout the evening. Later in the evening, Rob presented a surprise prize draw, with thank to gifts donated by Kent Reliance and Hythe Bay restaurant, and played the latest floorfillers and anthems that had the crowd dancing away until the early hours. Rob commented on the event, saying, "Thanks for the invite and letting kmfm be part of the night. The guys were amazing!"
The Mayor of Maidstone, David Naghi, attended as a special guest and gave us an insight into the importance of support in the community and also thanked the charity for the difference it makes not only in Maidstone but across the whole of Kent. Another special guest that evening was Chief Inspector Roscoe Walford from Kent Police. It was highlighted by the Chief Inspector that volunteers are hugely valuable, freely giving thousands of hours of their time to support the Police and residents of Kent.
The highlight of the evening was hearing stories form YLF's very own volunteers and young people. The volunteers shared how it felt to volunteer for the charity and the pleasure they receive from being able to make a difference to vulnerable people. Three young service users of YLF told their stories of coming into care, the support they have received from YLF and just how important their volunteer mentors and befrienders were, and still are, to them. Karleigh commented, "Having people like this in my life over the past 4 years, in both personal and work life, has helped me massively because I’ve been able to feel something I’ve never felt before... happiness, pride in myself, and self confidence." Each young person received a standing ovation from the crowd and many guests commended them personally for the courage they have shown and achievements they have made.
YLF would like to thank its Chairman, Geoffrey Dearing, for opening the event and thank yous also go to those who entertained us during the reception and dinner that evening, including; Gary Bowes-Read, the magician, Eleanor Hayward, harpist, student of Invicta Grammar School, and Jonah Diomede, pianist, student of Maidstone Grammar School.
Lastly YLF owe its biggest thank you to Dominic Di Cara and the team at The Mercure Hotel Maidstone, for donating the entire event to the charity, including the venue hire, the dinner and staff time, to ensure YLF gave a memorable and enjoyable evening to its volunteers without the expense on charitable donations. The evening would not have been possible without this. Mr Di Cara was a guest at the event and commented, "Thank you for inviting me to join you on such a memorable and significant evening. I enjoyed every moment and especially hearing from the volunteers and young persons. As a community hotel, I was delighted to have been able to support such a worthy cause."
Further feedback from one volunteer was, "Thank you for a magical evening. It was an honour to be in a room with so many amazing people and hear a few of their heart-warming stories. The young people who spoke were an inspiration and proved just how vital YLF is. I feel incredibly proud to play a part in the amazing work that you do (albeit very small!!!)."
A huge congratulations and thanks to all of YLF's volunteers for the achievements and difference you have made and for the energy, time and dedication you give every single day. YLF is proud to have such an incredible team who without, couldn't operate.