ABU DHABI // Hundreds of diplomats, dignitaries and organisation representatives gathered at the candle-lit Residency Gardens of the British Embassy last night for the Future Centre for Special Needs' 11th Annual Gala Dinner.
An estimated Dh600,000 was raised at the event - one of the centre's major annual fundraising drives - thanks to sponsorship, a raffle and an auction of work created by budding artists at the centre.
Launched in 2000, the non-profit organisation aims to advance the education of children and young adults with special needs, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and honorary president of the Future Centre, told the audience.
"This centre has long been proving invaluable service in the community," he said.
The centre has gone from "strength to strength", he added, and tripled in capacity - from 60 pupils 12 years ago to now helping more than 185 people aged between three and 20 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, physical disorders, hearing impairment, or a speech and language disorder.
The centre, in Mohammed bin Zayed City, plans to increase its student intake to 200 and open classes for early intervention for three-year-olds to enable more students to be integrated back to mainstream schools, said Sheikh Nahyan.
This year's theme "From Strength to Strength" celebrated the centre's achievements over the past year and heralded the launch of its inaugral UAE-wide Skills Challenge 2013 - a competition on May 8 and 9 that will challenge 130 students from different centres on vocational skills such as poster designing, word processing, acrylic painting, wood carving and basket weaving.