Celebrities including Leona Lewis make sanctuary's fundraising fete a record breaker
THE news that Simon Cowell has donated a "large sum of money" to Hopefield topped off a record-breaking day at the Sanctuary on Sunday.
Fans of the many celebrities performing travelled from as far as Portugal to support the event, which raised £14,000 for the Save Our Sanctuary campaign.
And with a record-breaking turnout for the Hopefield Christmas Fete, hundreds of fans went home happy after meeting a host of famous faces, including sanctuary patron Leona Lewis, street magician Dynamo, former Sugababe Keisha Buchanan and father and son comedy duo Stavros Flatley.
Speaking to the Gazette on Sunday, shortly after the event, Leona Lewis, hailed it a huge success.
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"I feel so excited about how everything has gone," she said.
"We've raised a lot of money today and everyone seems in really good spirits and had a really good time. So many people turned out and it's the biggest turnout we've ever had – I think more than double.
"We cannot thank you guys enough for pushing it for us and everything you've done – it's amazing."
The news that X Factor boss, Simon Cowell – described on TV at the weekend by his singer friend Sinitta as loving animals more than he does humans – has made a donation, has come as a massive boost to Hopefield.
The Sawyers Hall Lane sanctuary teamed up with the Gazette in September to raise £100,000 by Christmas to ensure the animals have warm and secure housing before the winter sets in.
Leona added: "Simon Cowell has given us a large sum of money and so we are going to dedicate a barn to him.
"And I want to thank everyone so much today for all of the volunteering, everyone that has come down and given their time.
"People sometimes only see one person but there is a whole big team of people going on behind this giving up their time.
"There is still more to do but we are seeing the difference and we are definitely helping the animals already."
Performances on the temporary stage included a bustling song and dance turn from Demi and Lagi Demetriou who made it big after their appearance on Britain's Got Talent.
Shortly after leaving the stage, Demi described the atmosphere in the packed marquee.
He said: "It was really really good, but I am a bit hungry now, so I've got to get something to eat but we have really enjoyed it.
"Do you know what, they are doing a really good job here so I am glad we could come and help and support this great cause.
"Please find five minutes to come down here, even if you can't afford to donate, just try and come down, it makes such a difference."
Following the double-act on stage was soloist Keisha Buchanan, a friend of Leona who, despite suffering a sore throat, sang two numbers including festive favourite Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
She pledged to return, while describing the appeal of the sanctuary for her.
"It's a really great place to have family interaction and my niece is enjoying it," she said.
Drawing the crowds and performing tricks outside the marquee was mesmerising magic man, Dynamo.
Big fan Danny Shennells, 28, came from Romford to catch the 28-year-old's act.
He said: "I came down to see Dynamo, he's a bit of an attraction.
"We saw this mentioned on Twitter and we didn't know this place existed.
"It's really nice, it's nice to see people taking care of horses that haven't been cared for and it's nice to know that there are people out there like that.
"It's a good little day out here really."
His Bradford-born hero, who was mobbed by adoring fans throughout his visit, explained why he decided to get involved.
"Leona asked me, it's for a great cause, and I thought why not?" he told the Gazette. "I am not sure if I am going to get out alive here, it's a bit crazy, but the animals are all beautiful and I think with all the loving care and attention they will strive to be even more beautiful.
"People need to come down and see what it's all about and if they can, donate something.
"I am now going to try and escape from here, but even if I can't escape, it's nice to stay and hang out here, so whatever happens it's a win-win situation.
"Hopefield needs your help so please make sure you help out."
Enjoying the busy fundraising programme, which included a range of stalls, a bouncy castle, Santa's grotto and a raffle and an auction, was hardcore Leona Lewis fan Tiago, who travelled to Brentwood from Portugal just to meet his idol.
The 19-year-old psychology student explained: "I want to support this project.
I think it's an amazing project and it deserves all our support and I also wanted to see Leona Lewis because I am a huge fan of hers.
And just as the action was drawing to a close, Brentwood pop star Pixie Lott made a surprise visit to lend her support to the cause.