ALMOST a quarter of a million pounds has been raised to kick-start an appeal by the Aldingbourne Trust.
The £223,000 includes a staggering £17,000 donated at its family fun day to officially launch the appeal.
The event saw more than 3,500 visitors pour into the trust’s Aldingbourne Country Centre.
Its highlight was the official launch by actress Patricia Routledge, of a £4m appeal with her endorsement of the trust’s work to support adults with learning disabilities to live independently and gain the skills relevant for work.
The money raised will improve the centre’s current facilities and build better ones such as a new conference centre and a cafe to seat up to 150 people.
Ms Routledge, famous for her TV role as snobby Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) in the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, added to the occasion by joining in a balloon launch along with Pooh and Tigger and a mass of excited children before she spent the afternoon talking to visitors.
Michelle McKinley Bell, the trust’s enterprise and development manager, said: “What a day! Everyone has worked so hard in the lead-up, and on the day itself, and it is so good to see the centre thriving with visitors.
“Raising £17,000 is far more than we expected, which has certainly given us a good head start towards the £4m appeal.”
The sea of visitors had plenty to enjoy. Families had athletic fun in the mini-Olympics with its three-legged races, welly-throwing and obstacle race.
Winners received medals and everyone got a lolly for taking part.
A patient queue built up for Animal Magic for the chance to see meerkats, snakes, tarantulas, parrots and mice among other animals.
They delighted young visitor, James Fisher, who said: “It’s really busy but I don’t care. I loved the snakes and meerkats.”
Others enjoyed holding the birds in Owls 4 U.
There was also the chance to browse in the craft market and learn how to make a broomstick or parrot peg courtesy of Steve Pickett.
Pooh, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger from Pooh House and Gardens provided plenty of entertainment by reading stories in the woodland walk and getting up to mischief in the centre to the delight of children.
Spirit FM DJs Milly, Vicky and Nicky broadcast live from the centre and were honoured to have its three alpacas named after them.
Visitor Susan Hill spoke for all those who went along. “Thanks for a sensibly priced wonderful family day,” she said.
The centre’s manager, Simon Hutchins, summed up the occasion: “A fantastic day.
“It far exceeded my expectations.”