Villagers turned out in force in Storrington on Saturday to help a little girl they have taken to their hearts.
Thirteen-year-old Georgia Imray suffers from cerebral palsy and has endured a lifetime of struggles because of her condition.
On Saturday crowds turned out en masse for a fun football fundraiser to help Georgia’s loving family raise cash towards the cost of a new vehicle to accommodate her wheelchair.
Georgia’s dad Barry, who runs Storrington Community Football Club, needed to raise £5,500 as a deposit for the vehicle. He was left gobsmacked before the start of Saturday’s fundraiser match when he was presented with a cheque for the full £5,500 by the local firm of Flawless Kitchens.
“It was overwhelming,” said Barry, who revealed that the emotional moment left a number of people close to tears. “It was quite something.”
With other funds already pledged, more than £8,000 - ‘staggering’ says Barry - has been raised which is likely to go towards buying further equipment to help Georgia who faces two operations over the next year - one to repair her hip and one to straighten her spine.
Meanwhile, Barry spoke this week of his gratitude to everyone who supported the weekend fundraiser. “Words can’t describe how grateful I am for the support. There are so many generous people. They are not just giving money, they’re also giving their time to help. It’s amazing and really humbling.
“The response I got from everyone. They said it was a pleasure to be part of such a special day. Just wow. People were willing to go that extra mile.”
Barry paid tribute to all his family, friends and supporters from the village who had rallied to make the day such a success.
As well as the football - in which eight goals were scored, including one by Barry himself - the fun day included a barbecue, bouncy castle and a variety of fundraising stalls.
Now Barry is determined to make the fundraiser an annual event to raise cash for other individuals in need or local charities. And he’s already been pledged support from friends and neighbours.
“What I saw on Saturday was inspiring and very surprising that so many people turned up to watch a few old fogies play football. Now I’m going to do it again the same time next year but take a bit longer to plan it than the five weeks we had this time.”
l Despite the success of the day, there was one incident which marred the occasion when around £150 cash was stolen from belongings stored in the football club changing rooms while the match was played. “It was the lowest,” said Barry, “stealing money on a charity day.”
Barry tried to recompense the players who lost the cash but they were adamant they would not take it from him.