The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is proud to nurture and invest in young people with exceptional talents within the masonic community – such as violinist Helena – through its TalentAid scheme
Most people can only dream of having a real talent in the performing arts, sports or music. Some of us are lucky enough to have enough skill to enjoy a friendly game of rugby at the weekends or a sing-along at a piano at family gatherings, but exceptional talent that can turn a hobby into a career is rare.
If you are the child or grandchild of a Freemason, TalentAid could help your dreams become reality. Helena was only three years old when she first picked up a violin. By 11, she was an accomplished musician and had been accepted into the under-11s National Children’s Orchestra. However, when Helena’s mother struggled to meet the costs of her training, she turned to the MCF’s TalentAid scheme for support.
‘Mum found it difficult to pay for me to go to orchestra rehearsals in London every Saturday. Things like travel and food added up to a large overall cost that she couldn’t manage. This was on top of tuition and orchestra fees – so it was just all too much,’ she says.
Helena’s grandfather was a Freemason and she would read the publications that were sent to him. ‘Mum saw the TalentAid scheme in one of the magazines and decided to apply for financial support – it was the best decision she ever made!’
The MCF covered Helena’s fees for the under-12s National Children’s Orchestra and workshops to hone her talent. At 13, Helena was accepted into the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and later into the National Youth Orchestra of Britain, both of which the MCF helped to fund.
‘The MCF was unbelievably kind when it found out that I’d been playing on a rented violin. They bought me my own violin when I was 18, and I still play on it all these years later. Since graduating from the Royal College of Music, I have been lucky enough to travel the world with the European Union Youth Orchestra, play with the BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra and record film scores with the Philharmonia Orchestra. I’m hugely grateful for the MCF’s support. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.’
If you are applying for support for the 2018-2019 academic year, TalentAid applications are still open but will close on 31 March 2018. All completed applications will be reviewed in July 2018.
Applications for support for the 2019-2020 academic year will open in November 2018.
If you would like to find out more about the TalentAid Scheme, visit www.mcf.org.uk/talentaid, or call 020 3146 3333. You can also head over to the MCF’s YouTube channel, where Helena tells her TalentAid story: www.youtube.com/masoniccharitablefoundation
TalentAid, a new charitable venture funded by Freemasons, has come to the assistance of football-crazy youngster Daniel Stuart from Shropshire
A substantial grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will help fund costs such as kit and travel this season. Nine-year-old Dan, who is a pupil at Whitchurch Church of England Junior School, has played soccer since he was just four years old. While a member of Prees under VIIs he was spotted by talent scouts from Stoke, Manchester United and Aston Villa and had trials with these clubs, but opted to go on the books of Shrewsbury Town last year as a more practical choice.
Dan’s talent as a central midfielder has been appreciated by his coaches as he trains each week at the Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology and the Sundorne Sports Village. So too has his temperament, which is pleasant and generous – he is often called on to assist younger players in their training.
Mother Mandy and grandfather Ron Ingall have been only too aware of the strain on the family that travelling to away games and training sessions have caused, and for a time it seemed as though Dan might have to set aside his dream of training to become a senior footballer. Fortunately, the newly formed MCF – the result of four national masonic charities combining into one – judged that Daniel’s case was worthy of their support, and approved the grant.
Jeremy Lund, spokesman for Shropshire’s Freemasons, was delighted with the news: 'Masonic charities support the young, the old, national and local causes, medical research, emergency services and much more. This is special, however, as Dan is one of the first young people in Shropshire to benefit from a TalentAid grant. We wish this talented and pleasant lad a bright future.'
Skye pushes the limits with a smile
Skye, the granddaughter of a Freemason, is 14 years old. She has Turner syndrome, a condition that affects growth and development, as well as mild autism and global development delay, which makes reading and writing difficult
Skye’s parents introduced her to judo when she was seven years old as a positive channel for the frustration she experiences as a result of her condition. She has since become highly skilled in the sport, excelling in both mainstream competitions and those for people with disabilities.
One of Skye’s ambitions is to compete in the Special Olympics. To qualify, she must compete internationally, but her family were struggling to meet the cost of travelling overseas. Through its TalentAid scheme, the RMTGB has contributed to Skye’s competition, accommodation and travel costs. In 2012, she was selected for the GB Special Needs International squad and has since achieved two gold and two silver medals in international competitions.
For Skye, judo isn’t just about competing. She struggles to interact with other children, so the sport gives her the chance to socialise as well. Funding from the RMTGB scheme enables her to go on trips that are not only essential for the development of her talent, but also for her confidence and happiness.
Greg plays an ace
Encouragement and support from the RMTGB helped Greg Boxer to pursue his tennis ambitions
In 2002 Greg Boxer, then thirteen years old, was a young, talented tennis player whose exceptional abilities secured him support from the RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme. With professional coaching, he went on to compete at the Queen’s Club in London.
RMTGB support increased, however, when his father became ill and maintenance grants were provided to Greg’s family. Sadly, in 2008, while Greg was at university, his father passed away.
Greg graduated in 2011 and decided this year, aged twenty-five, to join the organisation that supported him through difficult times. His initiation into the Old Halesonian Lodge, No. 7104, Province of Worcestershire, in October 2013 made him the fourth generation of his family to become a Freemason.
‘The generosity of the RMTGB has been incredible,’ said Greg. ‘It really helped me when pursuing my passion and also through university into adulthood. That backing is one of many reasons I have decided to join this amazing organisation.’
TalentAid celebrates first Olympian
Earlier this year, the impact of the RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme was demonstrated when Lloyd Jones – a former beneficiary – took part in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mixed ice dancing with his partner Pernelle Carron.
Lloyd has been ice skating since the age of five. During the first few years he had weekly coaching sessions, and by age nine he was skating six days a week and competing – and winning – nationwide.
At junior level, it became clear that Lloyd could develop his talent into a successful career; indeed, he was compared to Christopher Dean and received praise from leading figures in skating such as Robin Cousins, now a judge on ITV’s Dancing on Ice. At the age of sixteen, Lloyd took the decision to leave school and concentrate on his ice-dancing career.
His family were keen to support him, but the costs of training, equipment and travel began to increase. His grandfather, a Freemason, provided some assistance and Lloyd received limited funding from various sports and skating organisations, but it was not enough to cover his essential costs.
Lloyd began receiving support from the RMTGB in 2006, and for four years he received assistance towards coaching, skates, clothing and travel to ensure he could attend competitions and continue his career development. Once an established professional, Lloyd moved to France to partner with Pernelle and within a few years realised one of his ambitions by participating in Sochi. Lloyd said,
‘I want to thank the Trust for the support I received when I was younger. It really helped me achieve my dream of competing at the Olympic Games.’
During the past twelve years, the financial support the RMTGB has provided to young people with career ambitions in sport, music or the performing arts has enabled many to realise their potential.
All applicants enter a competitive process and undergo a financial test, with around fifty receiving support each year. Successful applicants can expect to receive contributions towards the cost of equipment, travel or coaching expenses.
For more details, go to www.rmtgb.org/talentaid
With the support of a grant from the Freemasons, Joshua Tonnar is rowing his way into Olympic contention as he subjects himself to a gruelling regime on the Thames, finds Miranda Thompson
The calm of a crisp January morning on the banks of the Thames is shattered by the hollering of eight sixty-somethings from a rowing boat looking for assistance. Luckily, there's an oar on hand to drag them back to shore. A twist of the Thames away from Hampton Court Palace, Molesey Boat Club welcomes rowing veterans onto the water. It's also home to the next generation of British rowers. Joshua Tonnar is a 21-year-old who is pursuing his Olympic dream with the help of funding from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys' (RMTGB) TalentAid scheme.
At six foot six inches, Joshua was originally a rugby fanatic. However, his Freemason grandfather Len Howard spotted the potential for his height after his wife Charlotte read about the Sporting Giants campaign. In 2007, Steve Redgrave spearheaded this initiative to find those who fitted the tall, athletic physical requirements for rowing.
'I went to a meeting at Stonemarket and Ray Collings, the fundraising manager at the RMTGB, was there,' remembers Len. 'I asked him whether they still supported Freemasons' grandsons and I put Josh's name forward. The money has been invaluable.'
Joshua has just completed a ferocious fifteen-minute testing session and is about to devour a gigantic plate of beans on toast – his exercise regime means he's got to consume six thousand calories a day. He recalls how he got started: 'I was talent tested in a national search for potential Olympian talent. According to the scores, you were categorised into the sports you were suited to.' Joshua was a natural, smashing three records on his first day and his first ever ergometer test on a rowing machine saw him finish just eight seconds behind a record set by Matthew Pinsent.
FUNDING POTENTIAL OLYMPIANS
In 2008, Joshua was taken on by the Sporting Giants scheme, which quickly propelled him into the GB Rowing Team Start Programme. His coach, Team GB Start's Neasa Folan, explains her role: 'We identify, recruit and develop potential Olympians. We try to develop them as athletes, so we look at their physical capacities and technical rowing skills.'
With the rowing season running from September to June/July, the months are packed with assessments and trials testing, before invitations to join a squad are issued. This year, the focus is on making the Under 23 World Championships squad. '2016 would be his Olympics,' says Neasa. 'I think he's got reasonable prospects – he's certainly got a lot of the physical characteristics and potential.'
Studying sports sciences at St Mary's in Twickenham, Joshua relishes the opportunity he has been given. 'I want to win gold at 2016 and the two after that,' he says. 'I'm here for 7am. We train until 9.30 or 10am at the first session, have breakfast and then we're back at 11. In the afternoon I go to university, but I'm back here in the evening.'
The amount of work Joshua has to do makes the funding from the RMTGB even more crucial, as Neasa says, 'The athletes might be part of the Team GB rowing programme but they're not funded.'
'Everything about rowing is expensive. I can't live off my student loan and sponsorship, I need constant funding and that's where the Freemasons are helping me. Without the RMTGB's support, I probably wouldn't be able to train full time. I'm very grateful,' says Joshua, hoisting his boat onto colossal shoulders before making his way to the banks of the Thames.
Founded in the eighteenth century, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), supports children and young people who have been affected by poverty, and aims to help improve their potential in life. TalentAid is just one of the schemes run by the charity and aims to ensure that those with exceptional talent pursue their dreams of becoming a professional in their field by providing grants to cover some of the costs associated with the talent. All TalentAid beneficiaries are required to have a masonic connection via their father, grandfather or guardian and all applications are subject to a financial test.
Since TalentAid’s launch in 2001, over two hundred and fifty exceptionally gifted young people have been supported by the RMTGB at a cost of around £3 million. Other TalentAid successes include rising stars in British swimming, kayaking and women’s football. Chief Executive Les Hutchinson explains, ‘These are the people with the highest level of talent, and quite often this talent represents their main opportunity to make a success of their lives. It’s vital they have support for it.’
Les is positive regarding the scheme’s support for Joshua. ‘It was obvious from the outset that he was participating in a very competitive training programme as well as being a holder of several records for his age. His desire to succeed and make a success in his chosen field was quite clear – and his potential ability to compete in the Olympics is very exciting. It really doesn’t come much more high profile than that.’
Letters to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.18 - SUMMER 2012
Following your coverage of the RMTGB’s assistance to talented young people, I was prompted to let you know about another such case. Freemason Carlton Johnson was a massive influence on Beehive Lodge, No. 6265, and a masonic mentor for so many. Despite his ailments he was determined to participate in Freemasonry to his utmost, notably as a charity steward. Following a long battle with Motor Neurone Disease, he died in March 1996 in his mid-fifties.
Stephen Rolley is the grandson of the late Carlton Johnson. Now in the final year of his diploma at Italia Conti, Stephen has been helped by the TalentAid scheme through the RMTGB. The purpose of his course is to further equip him with the skills required to enable him to work in a very competitive industry.
That Freemasonry has been able to help Stephen is but a tiny repayment of the debt owed to Carlton for the support he was able to offer others. Stephen is clearly showing many of the qualities that characterised his grandfather, such as resilience, focus, resolve, determination, an ability to relate to people and a great natural talent.
In recent years, the RMTGB has held its AGM in various Provinces away from London. As a result, an increasing number of Freemasons and members of the public have been able to hear about the life-changing charitable support that the RMTGB is able to provide.
This year’s meeting was held at the Langstone Cliff Hotel in Dawlish under the chairmanship of Michael Penny, Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire. The RMTGB’s President and Chief Executive, together with members of Council and staff, explained the work of the charity to over 200 guests, including the Lord Lieutenant of Devon and the Lord Mayor of Exeter.
The presentations highlighted how the RMTGB’s annual expenditure, which this year amounted to over £9 million, makes a positive and lasting difference to more than 1,800 children and grandchildren of masonic families, all of whom have suffered a distress such as the death of a parent or have been adversely affected by unemployment or redundancy.
Talking about Talent
The RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme, which this year celebrates a decade of providing support to those who are exceptionally gifted in music, sport and the performing arts, was also highlighted at the meeting.
During an interlude in proceedings, Clio Williams, a former beneficiary of the scheme, delivered an operatic performance to demonstrate the very high level of ability that TalentAid encourages and supports.
The RMTGB’s ongoing support for those with no connection to the Craft was also promoted at the meeting, including the Choral Bursary and Stepping Stones schemes, as well as the in-kind support provided to the separate charity Lifelites. This charitable organisation supplies valuable entertainment and educational technology to children’s hospices.
TalentAid, a scheme launched by the RMTGB to support the ambitions of talented young people, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The scheme was established in 2001 in response to a growing awareness that some families were making huge financial sacrifices to support their children’s ambitions to develop a career in sport or the performing arts.
RMTGB Chief Executive Les Hutchinson said: ‘Over the past decade we have awarded around £3 million in TalentAid grants to over 250 young people whose talent has been so exceptional that it represents their best career prospect.’
Cyclist Luke Gray has been supported since 2007. He is a prime example of the scheme’s ongoing success, having developed his sporting abilities into a high-achieving career. Currently 19 years old, he is ranked third in the world for his age in cyclo-cross, and hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics.
For help and advice, download an information sheet and application form at www.rmtgb.org