Princess Royal backs Mary's quest to raise £1m for Trust
Delighted Dame Mary Peters has declared herself supremely confident of success in her quest to raise £1m for the future development of Northern Ireland sporting talent.
The 1972 Olympic pentathlon gold medallist was speaking after her long-time friend and surprise guest, Princess Anne, paid a flying visit on Saturday night to announce the legacy project at a gala occasion, marking the 40th anniversary of the Mary Peters Trust, at Belfast City Hall.
The Princess Royal, a patron of the Trust and a member of the British equestrian team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, urged an audience of 400 black tie guests from the sporting and business worlds, to support 'Mary's Race To A Million' campaign aimed at raising the target figure to enable the Trust to continue supporting home-grown sporting talent over the next 40 years and beyond.
Paying tribute to Dame Mary and the work of her Trust, the Princess said: "Mary wishes to secure the future of her charity by raising an additional £1m in pursuit of her dream of helping young sportsmen and women continue on their pathway to sporting success.
"The Trust needs your help to make this happen... individuals, schools, sport governing bodies, local companies and sporting stars. You all have a part to play.
"Please make this race another one that Mary wins."
Dame Mary said later: "It may seem an ambitious project in the current financial climate, but the Trust has already raised and donated several millions to over 5,000 young local athletes, both able-bodied and disabled, over the past four decades.
"We now have lift-off, thanks to the Princess Royal, who captivated the City Hall audience and set the tone for what we must do. As a result of the Princess's inspiring speech, I've already had pledges from many business and sporting people offering financial and other help."
Trust chair Eilish Rutherford added: "For 40 years, we have helped young people realise their sporting dreams by selecting the best athletes, financially supporting them and providing access to a team of experts who help their pathway to success.
"Having reached this milestone we felt the time was right to make tangible financial plans to secure the future of the charity for many years to come.
"We are incredibly honoured that our patron, Princess Anne, came to launch the campaign and are very proud that she was able to meet many of the athletes the Trust has supported."
The Princess, accompanied by her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, earlier attended a private reception and met with Trust-aided athletes including Britain's first Winter Paralympic gold medal skier Kelly Gallagher, middle distance runner Michael McKillop, a multiple Paralympic gold medallist, British motorcycle champion Josh Elliott, hockey international Eugene Magee, blind water skiing champion Janet Gray, former Ulster and Ireland rugby player Paddy Wallace and Barry Funston, chief executive of the Rory McIlroy Foundation and a Trust director.