Langdon residents take charge at dinner time

Sinitta with Emma Mays, Danni Myers and Marc Tish at the dinner

Sinitta with Emma Mays, Danni Myers and Marc Tish at the dinner

Pop star Sinitta was among guests singing the praises of young adults with learning difficulties who ran the show at the Langdon fundraising dinner at London's Savoy hotel.

The dinner was the fifth held by the special needs charity but the first at which residents hosted the proceedings.

More than £400,000 was raised on the night, including £70,000 from an auction where a diamond ring, tickets to a JLS concert and an operatic dinner party were among the lots.

But the big talking point was the performance of the 13 residents, whom Sinitta complimented on being "really great hosts".

They spoke about their experiences at Langdon's college for 16-to-18-year-olds in Manchester and of finding accommodation and training, not to mention friendship and romance, through the charity.

Elliot Cohen now lives in his own flat and has a full-time job as a care home chef. He said his life would be empty without Langdon.

It's special that my parents can stop worrying about me

He and his co-presenters highlighted Langdon's aim to double its provision to 200 people within two years and fund a new housing and social facility in Edgware. The scheme is expected to cost £2 million, a considerable sum for a charity which receives no state funding.

"There are a lot of people who have similar problems to me and have nowhere to go," he said. "Nobody deserves to be forgotten. We all need the key to our front door."

Jodi Lerner, who met her fiancé through Langdon, told diners: "It's something special that my parents can stop worrying about me now and in the future."

Tribute to Langdon's work was also paid by Stephen and Mandy Carlin, whose 21-year-old daughter Amy has Asperger's syndrome.

"The most emotionally uplifting thing was when she could actually say: 'I went to work on my own on the bus and came home on my own,'" Mr Carlin recalled. "She is able to lead a normal life."

Guest speaker was Dame Stephanie Shirley, a former government spokesperson on giving, who described arriving in Britain on the Kindertransport at the age of five "stateless, penniless and without a word of English" - and how she built her business career.

Her life had changed when her late son Giles was diagnosed with autism as a baby.

"Like a changeling in a fairy story, he turned into a wild unmanageable child," she said.

"Autism can be devastating. It needs constant attention and constant care."

She praised Langdon for providing opportunities that hitherto would have been unavailable . "I'm convinced that every single person can make a difference," she said.

Chairman Barry Welck believes there are at least 1,000 people in the Jewish community Langdon should be providing for.

"We want to ensure as many people as possible get to enjoy a vibrant life and experience having fun, getting jobs and going out with their friends."

Foundation head Beverley Kaye added: "We are reaching out to the community to help us provide the bricks and mortar to meet our demand."

    Last updated: 1:58pm, April 7 2011