DAME STEPHANIE SHIRLEY CAPTIVATES GUESTS AT BIG BIRTHDAY EVENT

Posted on : January 8, 2013 at - 6:29 pm by The Big Birthday Appeal

World-renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley was guest speaker at a packed event in Hale organised by the Big Birthday Appeal – a charity which encourages children to give charity on a regular basis and involve them in helping children in need.

79-year-old Dame Stephanie received a standing ovation from the 80 guests who were captivated by her tumultuous but life-affirming story. Interviewed by journalist and broadcaster Angela Epstein, she spoke of her arrival in England on a Kindertransport; the challenges of caring for a profoundly autistic son; and overcoming sexism as a pioneering female entrepreneur in the 1960s.
The event, held at the home of Big Birthday co-founder Judith Moryoussef in Hale, was opened by Pat Dee and Tanya Farley. It raised over £2,300 – a proportion of which came from the sale of Dame Stephanie’s newly published book, Let IT Go, which she kindly donated to the charity.
Guests described the event as “unforgettable, moving and inspirational” and were touched by Dame Stephanie’s warmth and charisma as she chatted to many of the women there.

Born in Dortmund in 1933, Dame Stephanie fled Nazi Germany as part of the Kindertransport, arriving in Britain as “a weeping five-year-old who had lost everything”, including the precious doll who travelled with her.

Known to friends and colleagues as Steve, she founded her own outsourcing and technology firm at her dining room table with just £6. In 25 years as its Chief Executive, she developed the company, now part of Steria, into a FTSE 250 leading technology group which has pioneered new working practices and transformed the position of professional women.

Since retiring as honorary Life President in 1993, Dame Stephanie has increasingly devoted her time to philanthropy. She has given away much of her £150m fortune to causes close to her heart.

The Shirley Foundation, which ranks among the top 50 grant-giving foundations in the UK, has awarded more than £60 million in grants to charitable causes in the last seven years. Dame Stephanie’s current focus is on a global medical research project to determine the causes of autism. Her son Giles, who was profoundly autistic, died in 1998.

Dame Stephanie also served as the UK’s Ambassador for Philanthropy in 2009/10.

She explained: “My guilt about surviving the Holocaust gave me a strong urge to succeed – to prove that my life had been worth saving. For me, giving money away is a life choice and is not altruistic at all given that I get so much in return. My message to everyone is just to get involved in any charity that excites you. Philanthropy is a real pleasure that every person should enjoy.

“The Big Birthday Appeal is a wonderful concept because it encourages children to develop a love of helping others when they’re very young so that they’ll hopefully grow up to be the philanthropists of the future.”

Big Birthday co-founder Suzy Glaskie said: “Hearing Dame Stephanie’s remarkable story first hand is something none of us will ever forget. Dame Stephanie is an absolute inspiration and we feel enormously privileged that such a uniquely special woman chose to come to Manchester to speak at a Big Birthday event.”


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