This is the story of Amber's big night representing EBAT at the pre-Wimbledon party...
We arrived in London and went straight to the hotel as we were both (Amber and her Dad Steve) so excited to get there and start this very privileged trip. The hotel is part of Chelsea FC so we had a quick look around and gave out Ride For A Roof
leaflets, (Steve is one of our cycling heroes taking on this epic 350 mile cycle ride raising money for EBAT and Marie Curie Cancer Care.)
It was then back to the room where Amber and I got ready, she looked beautiful, I also did my best to scrub up well! At 5.30pm we waited outside the hotel entrance where a lavish Jaguar car picked us up to take us to the 'Style Suite' in a luxurious near by hotel. Amber was among some of the current top ten players having beauty treatments, hair, nails and make up, it was like she was a pop star! The players in the room were amazing and Amber loved meeting them, we left the 'Style Suite' with Amber looking gorgeous and ready for the party of her life, again in a chauffeur driven car!
We pulled up and as soon as the doors were opened we heard over the microphone the announcer said 'Here is Amber Harding our future Wimbledon champion!' that was such a proud moment for me, I got out of the other side of the car to hundreds of cheering fans thinking 'Who the hell is he?'
Amber then went and stood with Stacey from the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) who have always been wonderful supporters of the foundation and of course Bally. We stood with the press and watched car after car pull up with some of the worlds best athletes inside looking wonderful. Stacy introduces Amber to all the players including; Serina Williams, Maria Sharapova, Laura Robson and Jelena Jankovic, to name just a few. Amber was also bowled over when she met with the one and only Richard Branson, which was such a privilege. We were then whisked away by Eleanor Preston (Bally's PA and valued trustee of the Foundation) to go up to the roof-top terrace to meet someone special who apparently was desperate to meet Amber... To our delight it was Laura Robson who spent a long while speaking to Amber asking lots of questions about her tennis and who her favourite player was and of course she answered Bally.
We were then taken back down stairs to await the arrival of Heather Watson, Amber was chosen to walk the red carpet with her. When she arrived she welcomed Amber like a friend and was so kind to her, she treated Amber so well and they had some lovely playful moments together sticking out their tongues to the cameras! It was then on to the press area where they were both interviewed by CNN, BBC Sport, Heart Radio, Radio 5 Live and many others before we headed into the biggest party I have ever seen!
As Amber was the only little person in the whole building she was so very well looked after, everyone wanted to know who she was and why she was there. We walked and talked to so many people we were exhausted! It was so overwhelming how kind and interested they were.
That morning Coach Jamie dropped some of the Ride For A Roof leaflets off to us so we went to the party armed with these, fortunately we managed to get a table next to Richard Branson no less and soon after I finished a glass of wine I plucked up the courage to introduce myself, armed with a leaflet ready for him! He took the leaflet and asked questions about the ride and Amber's tennis, he was a real gent and so down to earth.
We walked and just kept bumping into people for further chats and more leaflets were given out. By this time the evening was in full swing and the darkness set on the roof top. We continued to walk around and walked pass Richard Branson again where he was chatting to a bunch of people and then he suddenly grabbed Amber and took her into the group where he announced " I have our future British champion " to his friends so we stopped and chatted again for some time. Then the amazing thing happened as he took our Ride For A Roof leaflets and handed them out to his friends saying you can afford it so can you and you - how cool is that!
Our evening was coming to a end as Amber (understandably) was getting tired, we didn't get far towards the exit before Amber was whisked onto the dance floor by some of the players and WTA staff, needless to say her tiredness soon passed as she gave those girls a dance lesson and busted some serious moves!
After a dance we grabbed another drink and settled down watching the guests having fun and decided again to try and make our exit but once again she was grabbed, this time by Heather and her friends for more hugs chats and high fives. We also spoke with Ade Adepitan the Olympian (I sneakily thought he should have one of our last leaflets!) We chatted away for a while as he told me how he knew Bally from their times together at the Nike Training Club (NTC) where they shared breakfast and interest. He was again another kind guy and he said he would love to help too and to be honest networking for such a great cause was such a easy thing to do as when these great people heard the name Bally everyone was so interested and happy to help and I only hope we see this on the Just Giving
page in the coming days.
We finally did manage to leave and made our way down stairs where we were again collected by our chauffeur to be taken back to the hotel to out our feet up and discuss what had just happened, we were both in shock I think!
Amber and I will never forget this night and would like to thank Nino, Jamie, Eleanor and all the EBAT staff for everything, we loved every second of it!
We woke up to a letter under our door saying there was a package for Amber at reception so before I could wake up she was jumping around in anticipation wanting to find out what it could possibly be! So before breakfast we rushed down to find the WTA had delivered her a bag of goodies, how sweet was that?!
Thank you to you everyone we so appreciate you as friends and look forward to moving the academy in the right direction.
Amber and the Harding family.