More than 100 people attended an exclusive, sold-out gala ball in aid of Big Cats in June, among them MMM publisher Rasa Dregva, who shares the night here…

The sun shone, the Champagne flowed and the winner was a charity so close to my heart. On a warm night in June MMM was delighted to have been the media partner for a very special event at one of the county’s most prestigious venues.

Held amid the elegance and splendour of Champneys Eastwell Manor Spa & Hotel at Boughton Lees, the night saw more than 100 people gather for the Project Lion Gala Ball.

Project Lion is a charitable drive organised by The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden which aims to raise £500,000. The money will go towards the expansion and improvement of the enclosures for these majestic creatures at the Sanctuary’s base in the Kent countryside, as well as contributing to conservation initiatives for lions in the wild.

4 ladies and one old man standing front of event board

The event itself was a sophisticated, sold-out, black-tie ball and I was thrilled that MMM could be part of it. I sit on the fundraising committee of The Big Cat Sanctuary and it is very dear to me. Readers will hopefully recall reading about my exploits after I traveled to Kenya to get hands-on at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which the Sanctuary works with.

It was an incredible experience to see the work they do to protect wildlife and their environment and one I will never forget.

As a result, I’ve always been keen to do my bit in furthering the cause and ensuring it can continue its vital work.

The night at Eastwell Manor, however, was – perhaps thankfully – a rather more glamorous affair! 

Champneys had very generously laid on a beautiful marquee in its grounds and a three-course meal. We were also delighted to see that our good friends at Whitehead Monckton had supported it, too, as one of the main sponsors.

Guests were serenaded by One Drum – an authentic African drumming group – which provided the perfect backdrop.

Among those giving speeches was the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre, Dr James Musinguzi. We also heard from Peter Sampson, who in 1984 started the Paradise Wildlife Park, which in turn opened the Big Cat Sanctuary in 2001. They explained the good causes the funds raised would go to and underlined just why it is so important for the future of some of the world’s most beautiful animals.

The event was coordinated by Lynn Whitnall, CEO of the Paradise Wildlife Park, who has been involved with the Big Cat Sanctuary since its inception. 

She said: “Thank you very much to Eastwell Manor for hosting our Project Lion Ball. It was a fantastic evening that allowed us to raise thousands 
to support our African and Asiatic Lion Project at The Big Cat Sanctuary, but also contribute to our conservation partners abroad.” 

She added: “A huge thank you to everyone for their incredible support.”

Special tribute must be paid to her for staging such a fabulous evening – as well as to Eastwell Manor General Manager James McComas for his generosity in providing such a fitting venue.

As the night drew on we had silent auctions and raffles – many with some incredible prizes – and all of which helped to raise thousands of pounds for the worthy charity. An amazing amount of money was raised with every penny going to a good cause. As we went to press the funds were still being counted, so keep an eye on our social media channels where we will announce the final figure. 

MMM would like to extend very special thanks to everyone who contributed to the night’s success and all those who attended. It was a magical event and for a cause we very much look forward to continuing to support over the years ahead.

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