City charity is real winner on day Norwich City draws

Bosses at a centre for disabled children and adults received a massive boost over the weekend when Norwich City players contested the game with Leeds in shirts bearing its logo.

The Norwich-based Hamlet Centre, which provides support for around 1,000 families across Norfolk, won the unique prize in the Aviva Community Chest competition backed by Evening News sister paper the EDP.

Michael Rooney, chief executive of the Ella Road based charity, which is to relocate its children's services to a new site at the St Raphael Club, said: 'It's been terrific for the profile of the charity and we've had a fantastic couple of weeks in partnership with Aviva and the football club who have both been absolutely fantastic.

'We've been able to involve so many of our children and students - people have gone up to the Colney training ground, lots of people were at the game. We've involved families, staff, volunteers, supporters and fundraisers so it was a very special day in the Hamlet Centre's history.'

EDP readers nominated 130 charities for the Community Chest competition, which was whittled down to a short-list of five and put to the final vote.

Almost 10,000 votes – a record for the competition – were cast by readers and Aviva staff and a staggering 5,495 of those were cast for the Hamlet Centre.

The charity was given the use of the Aviva executive box during the game and had the opportunity to place charity collectors around the ground before the match which saw Carrow Road's biggest crowd of the season so far with 26,300 in the ground.

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The prize is expected to net the charity thousands of pounds which will be added to next week when the shirts worn by the players will be auctioned off with the proceeds donated to the centre.

The charity helps people aged from four to 45 at its premises on Ella Road but started a �1.3m fundraising campaign earlier this year to revamp the St Raphael Club in Johnson Place to create a dedicated unit for young children.

So far it has raised �735,000 towards the new centre, and the increased promotion from the host of prizes will help it to hit its target.

The Hamlet Centre has a long history with Norwich City Football Club, from the days when its co-founder, Jack Wymer, used to attend Norwich City matches in the 1970s.

The Aviva Lemur, Aviva's Norwich City Mascot, wore a Hamlet Centre sponsored shirt with Mr Wymer's name in honour of the association.

Other finalists in the competition were Priscilla Bacon Lodge, Nelson's Journey, United Norwich Kidney Patients' Association and Norfolk Accident and Rescue Service.

Chris Elliott, sponsorship manager at Aviva, said he was 'delighted' with the record response from the public for nominations and was happy to have given the Hamlet Centre the chance to raise its profile, raise funds and also provide volunteers and users with an unforgettable experience.

Delia Smith, joint majority shareholder at Norwich City, said: 'Michael and I are delighted for everyone at The Hamlet Centre to have won this fantastic opportunity.

'For the third year running, Aviva have provided this outstanding initiative and we truly hope the day is of great benefit to The Hamlet Centre in raising as much awareness and funds as possible for the excellent service they provide.'

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