With the Rugby World Cup Final upon us, we cast a spotlight on two of our fantastic supporters, Polly, and her husband, International Rugby Referee, Wayne Barnes.
Friday 30 October 2015      Guest blog
Our most memorable night of the Rugby World Cup

Polly lost her mum to breast cancer when she was just 24 years old and set up a Tribute Fund to raise money for Breast Cancer Now in her memory.

Last week, only a few days before Wayne took charge of the World Cup Semi Final between Argentina and Australia, they held a very special Gala Dinner, Referees Unplugged!

The Master of Ceremonies on the night was broadcaster, John Inverdale, while the main event was a live Q&A with top referees, Nigel Owens, Glen Jackson, and Wayne himself. It was a night of funny anecdotes and topical debate as guests were given insight into how the world-class professionals make those big decisions.

They raised an incredible £25,000 for the Debbie Broderick Tribute Fund and we spoke to Polly and Wayne to hear what motivated them to organise such a unique event.

John Inverdale and Wayne Barns draw raffle for rugby gala

“My mum, Deb, was the absolute centre of our family. She was an inspiration to us and to others who knew her, both because of her energy, wisdom and attitude to life, and also because of how she dealt with her illness with such integrity and determination.

We lost her to breast cancer in September 2007 at the age of 56, and there isn't a day that goes by where we don't think about her or think, "What would she have done in this situation?" She had such a big personality, and held her head high right until the end, and it's that positive attitude that we want to honour by raising as much money as we can for Breast Cancer Now.

We’ve done different types of fundraising in the past, but with Wayne involved in the Rugby World Cup, we thought it was a great opportunity to raise more money this year than ever before.

We had a great response when we sent out the invitations and a great time on the night. Nigel, Glen and Wayne were brilliant on the stage for the Q&A and I couldn’t believe the amount of money people were bidding in the auction!

We knew we had some good lots – Rugby World Cup Final tickets, a signed New Zealand shirt, lunch with Jason Leonard – but I had no idea how much people would give.

Rugby shirts auctioned for Breast Cancer Now

At the start of the night I thought if we could raise £10,000 it would be a brilliant result. To finish with over £25,000 was just amazing!

It’s really important to us that we keep raising money for Breast Cancer Now. Research gave mum a few precious extra months with us, and we hope that in the future research will help towards giving other people their lives back. We want to do everything we can to contribute to that, in her memory.”

“Our team of officials at the World Cup know each other well and we’ve worked together for a long time, coming up through the levels. About six weeks ago we all got together in preparation for the tournament and I mentioned some of the fundraising Polly and I had done for her mum’s Tribute Fund.

We’ve done different types of fundraising, from rugby matches in my home town, to asking for donations at our wedding. When I talked about it, everyone thought the World Cup was a great opportunity to raise more money and they were really happy to get involved.

We pulled a plan together quickly and we were so grateful to everyone who gave their time to help with the organisation, donate prizes, or attend on the night. I hope we put on a good show – we have a pretty unique job so there were certainly some good stories to tell!

Nigel Owens and Wayne Barns answer questions

Raising money in memory of Polly’s mum means a lot to both of us, and when Polly spoke about her experience on stage I was so proud of her.

It was brilliant to see such a great turnout and the way our guests gave so generously towards this very worthy cause. To raise so much was beyond anything we thought possible and it really was a special way to mark the World Cup.”

Donate to the Debbie Broderick Tribute Fund or find out more about how to set up a Tribute Fund in memory of a loved one.