Job One - Theme is Mad Men which means zip nada to me. No I haven't seen the series. So a quick Google, and apparently I am expected to dress in a 50's/60's theme. Ok. Erm... first choice, a nice new diamante bling collar for Lucie. Very kitsch. That's one of us sorted. Dave, new bow tie, in a retro theme, then me. Well dressing up, in fact dresses alone a bit dodgy as I am more a jeans and fleece girl with comfortable trainers, so a safe option is black dress, red heels and pearl - oo mama - jewellry. The best bit was my really smashing friend/hairdresser/autism parent did an amazing job on my hair in a real Audrey Hepburn style on a Sunday, as a treat for me. Thanks Sam! Just wish I had a photo of how beautiful the back looked...
So on to our night. We arrived to meet our friends from Support Dogs. A great mix of people, including Michelle, Lucie's trainer, and two other dogs, Jasper another Autism Assistance dog, and Dougie a Seizure Alert Dog. Dougie is a great addition to the evening as a third of children with classic autism have epilepsy. These are truly remarkable dogs who smell/detect a seizure before it happens and alert the owner to take medication. Just amazing. I still can't get my head round it. These dogs literally can save lives. Respect.
And so we swan through the Hilton foyer, with photographers around trying to snap away at celebrities, and as VIP guests we are fast tracked up to the VIP reception at Cloud 23 cocktail bar. Greeted with a swish (and strong) martini we start to mingle. The bar is on the 23rd floor with a perspex section of see through floor to the street below. Very weird. I walked Lucie on to it. She was not phased at all. That's my girl! And so now each person we met got a quick intro into how great Lucie is, and what an awesome change dogs can make to the lives of children with autism.
We had official photos taken with celebrities, Paul Scholes, Melanie Sykes and Keith Duffy, as well as a cyclist from the Olympics - no idea who! And then on to the official event. It was very swish and professional. Great entertainment, huge turnout and some serious money present. As a fundraiser they had done an amazing job. The raffle was out of our league, with thousands of pounds bid on each item. Then Keith Duffy spoke. He is from Boyzone pop group, and been in Coronation Street. But all that was put aside as he spoke as a parent. He talked of the journey with his autistic daughter. So emotional. I could not hold back the tears. I was sitting by Melanie Sykes (TV celeb) but more importantly also a parent of an autistic boy, who was also losing the fight with tears listening to Keith. It was a lovely moment to share with them, not for who they are and what they do, but just as parents all struggling to come to terms with the same journey. Celebrities do nothing for me but a parent of an autistic child grabs my attention, and you feel their connection. Keith got a well deserved standing ovation.
I was delighted to get the chance to talk with more celebrities afterwards and introduce them to Lucie. She was cuddled and mauled by Melanie, Kym Marsh, stars from Coronation Street who I had no chance in recognising, and we had a nice hello chat with Keith Duffy(too too gorgeous). Paul Scholes was more of a quick snap after midnight, but I think he is more meek than most.
So we approached loads of people and did our thing. I think Dave loved the women who came and swooned over Lucie. I tried to give him space to enjoy it while it lasted! It was a hugely succesful night, and I think the profile of Autism Dogs was raised to another level. Fantastic.
We have truly awful photos of the night. No excuses, just bad lighting, bad posing, scary dog eyes (caption competitions required! - check out Lucie with one red one green eye :)) - bad organisation and some strong martinis to blame. But here are a few with Keith Duffy, Melanie Sykes, Kym Marsh, Paul Scholes, and yes - you guessed it that bloke from Corrie! But really the photos do not do the night justice, it has great memories for me, and so so proud of Lucie! What a star :)