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The incredible generosity of Brisbane’s philanthropic community was on display at the inaugural Sapphire Gala last week – raising $585,900 to help bring advanced therapies to Queensland children and young people.

More than 300 people – a mix of Brisbane’s leading philanthropists, business executives and influential personalities – enjoyed a night to remember at the sold-out event at Howard Smith Wharves on Thursday 12 October.

Hosted by media personality, Matty J, guests were treated to performances by Franky Smart and the Queensland Gospel Choir, a live auction, and the opportunity to ‘crack the code’ to the sought-after Sapphire Vault – which contained a Rolex Sky-Dweller timepiece donated by Tough Automotive and a Diamonds by Sharni 10-carat tennis necklace.

In what is being called one of Brisbane’s best charity events of the year, celebrity guests included Will Ashcroft, Joel Parkinson, Ruby Lee, Adam Flaskas and Lucy Henry-Hicks.

The Sapphire Gala is helping to fund the new ACTION Centre – Advanced Clinical Trials & Innovation Centre – for Queensland children and young people.

A small but rapidly growing number of new gene and cell therapies are being developed specifically for children, but access to clinical trials of these innovative therapies is limited to centres with specialised facilities and expertise.

Developed by Children’s Health Queensland and supported by the Children’s Hospital Foundation, the ACTION Centre will fast-track discoveries for diseases and injuries with limited treatment options or no cure.

It will bring expertise and knowledge to the bedside and accelerate the potential of innovative and new therapies for Queensland children.

This could be life changing for children like five-year-old Jack Parcell, who has a condition called Leber Congenital Amaurosis.

For children with Leber Congenital Amaurosis, vision is relatively stable in the first decade of life but begins to decline in adolescence. Most affected individuals are legally blind by their 20th birthday.

But there is hope for kids like Jack. His specific variant (RPE65) makes him a candidate for the gene therapy known as Luxturna.

Jack was the first child in Queensland to receive this treatment – a treatment that he travelled to Sydney to access.

Just weeks on, Jack’s family have already seen significant improvements in his vision. An incredible feat.

In Australia, there are approximately 400,000 children – just like Jack – living with a rare disease right now.

Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO, Lyndsey Rice said: “For the first time, developments in technology mean advanced therapies, such as gene therapy and cell therapy, can completely transform how we treat childhood genetic disease.”

“In the past, Queensland families had to face the tough decision of missing out on a potentially life saving trial, or travelling interstate to access a trial. This is at a time when families are already dealing with enormous emotional and financial stress.”

“The ACTION Centre can change that – that is why we are so grateful for the Sapphire Committee and the Sapphire community,” she added.

Founded in late 2022, the Sapphire Committee shines the spotlight on the Children’s Hospital Foundation and paediatric healthcare in Queensland.

Head here to learn more about the Sapphire Committee.