Nothing beats a practical demonstration of a charity’s work. And, with a little help from Sir Tom Jones, drummer Saul Zur-Szpiro supplied it to the 1,100 guests at Norwood’s annual dinner on Monday, which raised £3.2 million for its work with children, families and those with learning difficulties.
Saul, 20, has autism and other disabilities and has been supported by Norwood since he was two, most recently to tour with his rock band, The AutistiX, whose performance provided a rousing conclusion to the dinner, held at Grosvenor House in Mayfair. Sir Tom joined them on stage to close the show with a belting cover of The Beatles’ Help, getting even the most staid of diners to their feet.
Susan Zur-Szpiro said her son “was ecstatic as he came off stage.The cherry on the cake was performing with Sir Tom Jones and receiving a standing ovation at the end. We were delighted to support Norwood, which has been so important in our lives.”
Other service users to feature in the programme were Norwood resident Rachelle Adler, who proposed the toast to the Queen, and Laurence Black, who has lived in the Ravenswood home for most of his life. Mr Black has participated in Special Olympics and thanked the charity for helping him to win “many sporting medals. With your help this evening, Norwood can give more people the gift of a better life.”
Education Secretary Michael Gove — who recently visited Norwood’s Kennedy Leigh Family Centre in Hendon — urged diners “to give until it hurts because the cause for which you are giving couldn’t be more important”. The charity’s “timeless message” was to extend a helping hand to children with special needs and families experiencing financial hardship. Its work showed “why the British Jewish community is an example to all of us”.
Chief executive Elaine Kerr highlighted continuing efforts to promote dignity and independence for clients through a “life-changing” assistive technology programme backed by the KC Shasha Charitable Foundation.
“The programme is in its second year and we are starting to see the most remarkable success,” she said. “Our residents now get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. We don’t need to disturb people through the night to ensure they are well, because various sensors alert us immediately if there is a problem. Comfort and control gives people with very limited movement the ability to make choices and to take control [of things] which you and I take for granted. For example, turning off the lights when you are ready to go to sleep, opening the curtains when waking, turning on a TV or audio system and choosing your TV programme and music. Eye-based technology is the ultimate in assisting a person with profound multiple learning disabilities to achieve their full potential.”