Sunderland youngster inspires rare afternoon tea treat at Sunderland Empire

It was time for tea at Sunderland Empire as the historic venue threw its doors open for a special charity event. Luna Petrucci, four, from Ashbrooke was the guest of honour at an afternoon tea held at the theatre in aid of Red Sky Ball for CHUF. The Empire chose the cause as its charity of the year after being touched by Luna’s battle for survival. Two years ago, the youngster underwent a lifesaving operation at the Children’s Heart Unit based at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. Since her successful recovery, her parents Emma and Sergio Petrucci have established Red Sky Ball and raised over £110,000 in under 18 months, whilst continuing to generate awareness and donations for the unit. As part of its series of fundraising events for the charity, the Empire hosted a 1920’s-themed afternoon. The rare opportunity to take part in the traditional tea in the recently-renovated Dress Circle bar proved so popular that a second sitting was added to meet demand. Luna’s dad Sergio said: “We are overwhelmed by the turnout at the Sunderland Empire. People who didn’t know us personally, but had heard of the Red Sky journey, came along to support us as we continue to achieve our goals to help buy much needed machinery to make the lives of children with heart problems that little bit easier. “I’d like to thank the staff at the Empire for volunteering and for putting the afternoon tea together but also for creating a great experience for our guests, and also to all of our commercial partners, it makes such a difference.”

Theatre staff volunteered their time for the event and a range of raffle prizes were provided by businesses including the Bridges, Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland Marriott Hotel, Morrisons, Ramside Hall, SAFC and The Funky Indian, ensuring all money raised was donated to the charity. One poignant donation was from Emma Garside of local company, Em & Dy’s Cakes. Emma underwent heart surgery when she was three-years-old and was delighted to be able to support the event to raise funds for CHUF. The Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle is one of only two units in the UK supporting babies and children who require heart transplants. More than 300 children each year are cared for at the heart unit, 20 will receive heart transplants and over 7,000 will return for outpatient visits, with 10% of patients being from the Wearside area.

The money raised from Red Sky Ball goes towards making life more comfortable for heart children and their families in hospital like the Petrucci family; whether it be providing a parent’s emergency wash bag, gadgets and games or the essential equipment and state of the art machinery needed to save little lives across the region.

Sunderland Echo, 2017

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