£8,000 raised by the North East Fencing Community to support Gemma Collis’s Rio Ambition
Last night 130 people gathered in the Great Hall of Durham Castle, a world heritage site to raise funds for Gemma Collis, Paralympic wheelchair fencer in support of her aim to be at the Rio Games. Gemma currently has no funding and is a full-time student at Durham University but is well placed to secure a place in Rio, providing she can find the money to get to the final few qualifying events.
Gemma’s courage and determination inspired Fencing North East and Durham University to work together to deliver one large event that had the potential to raise a significant sum. The Fencing North East team gained support from 27 businesses ranging from global firms to small local organisations, as well as a number of individual supporters. The event was attended by The Mayor of Durham and the Vice Chancellor of Durham University as well as members of the local business community, fencers and their families. Around £4,000 was generated from ticket sales and a further £4,000 was raised on the night through auction and raffle prizes. The event was an opportunity to showcase wheelchair fencing and for people to hear Gemma’s incredible story.
The event was a huge success which those attending from the business community commenting on the quality, uniqueness and in particular the personal touch delivered by Gemma herself.
Durham University also used the event to surprise Gemma’s coach, Laszlo Jakab. Laszlo arrived at Durham 20 years ago and he turns 70 later this year. Laszlo has coached fencers to success at every level of the sport and is seen as a huge asset to sport at Durham University. He has made a very significant contribution to wheelchair fencing, and has served as an inspiration to so many fencers from cadets to veterans. Durham have a history of naming their sporting venues after their famous alumni but considered it fitting on this occasion to award that honour to an outstanding coach. The Salle at Durham University was last night named the Laszlo Jakab Salle.
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