Almost £30,000 was raised last night by businesses and organisations which came together to help support the next generation of Wiltshire sports stars at the inaugural Business and Sporting Gala Dinner.
As part of a Legacy for Wiltshire, a Wiltshire Council-led partnership which aims to encourage people to keep fit and active, boost the local economy and bring communities together, the council hosted the event in the Atrium at County Hall.
Money raised from the night will fund a special foundation set up to build on the annual Funding Future Olympians and Paralympians grant, which provides financial help to local, elite athletes.
The aim behind the foundation is for even more athletes to benefit from the grant scheme which has been running for four years.
More than 20 businesses pledged their support by sponsoring the dinner. The aim of the event was to generate as much funding as possible to assist the budding Olympians, Paralympians and athletes with world-class potential in their journey to success.
The evening was hosted by former England rugby captain Phil de Glanville, with speeches from 2011 cycling World Champion and 2012 Paralympics champion Mark Colbourne MBE and comedian and impressionist Aaron James.
To raise more funds for the athletes, one-off experiences and prizes were auctioned, including the opportunity to cycle with Mark Colbourne and a swimming session with Paralympic silver medallist and four-time World Champion Stephanie Millward.
Funds raised throughout the evening will enable successful applicants to train and attend competitions as well as pay for equipment and transport costs to regional and national events.
Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott said: “Last night's event was truly unique and it brought some of the county's future sporting stars and local businesses together.
“Even the smallest amount of funding can make a huge difference in supporting the athletes' journeys to success.
"The evening was a great opportunity to make these connections and to raise funding to establish a foundation trust to support those sporting stars who will represent Wiltshire in national and international competitions.
“I would like to thank everyone who attended last night and I'd particularly like to thank all the businesses which have sponsored the event.”
Nick Brailey, head of marketing and communications at Knorr-Bremse, the main sponsor of the evening, said: “Last night's Wiltshire Business and Sporting Gala Dinner was excellent and it was great to see so many sporting stars receive funding.
"Knorr-Bremse was pleased to get involved and support the event as the company recognises the importance of encouraging local athletes and supporting their training and future success at the Olympics and Paralympics.
"Knorr-Bremse encourages and funds its employees in participating in sports and healthy living activities through its ’Well at Work’ programme. This initiative aligns perfectly with the company’s own goals.”
Paralympic swimming star Stephanie Millward, of Corsham, said: “2012 and 2013 were both amazing years for me and I’m hoping this funding will help make 2014 just as special.
"I’m grateful for the support which I hope can benefit more athletes in the future who are seeking to reach their goals.”
Golfer Ben Amor, of Marlborough, said: “It’s an amazing feeling when your years of hard work and dedication pay off and you achieve your dream. 2013 was a fantastic year for me, particularly being part of a victorious Great Britain team against Europe.
"I’m so pleased to receive this funding as it will help me update my equipment and generally help achieve my next set of goals which include competing in the Walker cup in 2015.”
Chippenham badminton player Daniel Bethell said: “I love my sport and I’ve already achieved so much including making it to British Number 1 in my category for men’s singles.
"This grant will help support my training as I have my eyes firmly set on even more success in the European Championships in Spain this September.”
Chippenham cyclist Lauren Booth said: “2013 was an amazing year for me breaking records and achieving so many goals.
"I'm always looking to the next challenge and I'm delighted to receive this funding which I intend to use on helping buy some new wheels for my World Record attempt in Manchester later this year."
Hannah Brown, of Bradford on Avon, who is a wildwater and sprint canoeist, said: “The decision to become a full-time athlete has not been an easy one, and this grant will make a huge difference to me.
"I hope this will give me that bit of extra help I need to fulfil my dream of competing for Great Britain, and Wiltshire, in Rio 2016.”
Devizes sailor Andrew Farrow said: “After my injury, I thought competing at the top level would never be possible, but that is now a realistic goal.
"I look forward to using this grant to help me train and reach my full potential. Representing my country at the European Championships would be an amazing event, which I hope will be an inspiration to others who experience life-changing injuries.”
Fencer Philip Marsh, of Bradford on Avon, said: “Training to be the best at what you do requires a lot of dedication. Having this extra support from Wiltshire Council, and knowing your county is behind you and supporting you, is an incredible feeling.”
Trowbridge swimmer Aaron Moores said: “I want to thank Wiltshire Council for the grant and also the work they do with communities and businesses to support local athletes. This sort of support will help me to continue to compete at the very highest level.”
Three-day eventer Danielle Dunn, of Purton Stoke, near Royal Wootton Bassett, said: 'I am very grateful for this grant, not only will it financially help towards achieving my goals but also gives me huge confidence to know I have the support and backing of those involved in this scheme.
"Riding has been a major part of my life, and being able to represent my country at the Olympics would mean everything to me.'
Rhythmic gymnast Laura Halford, of Cricklade, said: "Receiving this funding will give me such a boost going into the Commonwealth Games this summer. My aim is to represent Great Britain in Rio, and the support I’m receiving will help me on my way.”
Sprinter Elaine O’Neil, of Chippenham, said: “To receive this grant from Wiltshire Council is a big boost for me ahead of this year’s Commonwealth Games. I really appreciate all the support and can’t wait for this summer and doing the best I can.”
And fellow sprinter Jack Wiskin, of Warminster, said: “I’m so happy to have received a grant from Wiltshire Council and I really want to thank them. Some people may not realise how much it costs to train, travel and compete so this funding takes some of that pressure off and allows me to focus on my goals. I hope this helps me go all the way to Rio in 2016.”