ACTOR Jimmy Nesbitt and TV presenter Emma Louise Johnston will be returning to host this year's second annual Emerald Ball at Belfast's Europa Hotel on behalf of local charity SAM (Struggle Against Muscular dystrophy).

Hailed "the new highlight of the Northern Ireland social calendar" and recently nominated for IN Magazine's most glamorous event of 2009 award, last year's inaugural ball raised a staggering 65,000-plus.

Founded by Hillsborough mum Tracy McCausland and named for her son Sam, who suffers from Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, SAM is a zero-cost charity and every penny raised goes directly to fund research into CMD.

Among other things, the charity has funded an international CMD patient registry, an essential requirement for research, and expects soon to announce the winner of the first 100,000 SAM Translational Research Grant.

Tracy and fellow organisers are promising that this year's gala ball, at the Europa on March 13, will top last year's event.

"The line-up is still top secret," she says, "but you can be assured that it will be a real jewel in the Northern Ireland social calendar.

"We are confident that the 2010 event will be even bigger and better than before and we would be delighted if you would reserve the date in your diary and join us for a night of spectacular entertainment, all in aid of a very good cause."

Last year's Emerald Ball was sold out and the charity hopes tables for this year's event will be snapped up quickly.

Standard tables are priced at 1,000, premium tables at 1,250 and packages including advertising and sponsorship are also available.

Tables can be reserved by emailing info@helpsam.info.

Alternatively, to book a table or pay by credit card call Sarah on 028 9026 1900 or send a cheque (payable to Struggle Against Muscular dystrophy) to 23 Botanic Avenue, Belfast, BT7 1JG.

For further information email ball@helpsam.info.