Hundreds of fluorescent fundraisers set Hemel and Berkhamsted aglow on Saturday night at The Hospice of St Francis’ 10th Anniversary Midnight Walk celebration.
Dressed from head to toe in multi-coloured neon, nearly 600 men, women and children set off from Hemel Hempstead School at 10pm, weaving through Bourne End and Berkhamsted on personal challenges to complete the five or 10-mile routes - many in memory of someone special.
The milestone event looks set to raise over £60K towards the £4.8m the Hospice needs every year to provide its free care and support for people across Herts and Bucks facing life-limiting illness and their families and carers.
Nicky Maxwell-Braithwaite, Events Fundraiser at the Hospice, said, “I just want to say a huge thank you to all our walkers, our 100-plus marshals and volunteers, Hemel Hempstead School and Tesco’s in Jarman Park for supporting our very special 10th Midnight Walk – it was an amazing night, which wouldn’t be possible without the individual efforts of everyone involved.
“It was so inspiring to look out across a sea of energised, neon painted faces all raring to glow for it! The party atmosphere was electric and the neon pods, funky music and floating bubbles provided great entertainment for all our walkers who seemed to love glowing under the UV lights.
“The warm glow of our candlelit reflective area gave people the chance to pause and take a moment to remember their loved ones, before enjoying a tasty breakfast.”
Dads, daughters, mums and sons, friends, families and work colleagues from all over Herts and Bucks took part, their spirits undampened by showers at the start, showing great determination, drive and commitment.
More young people than ever took part, including nearly 200 year 7-13 students, staff and parents from The Hemel Hempstead School – the event’s start and finish for nine of its 10-year history - which held an inter-house competition to support the Hospice as its chosen local charity.
The school’s six houses and 48 house captains rallied fellow pupils to join the walk, with the highest fundraising house winning the exclusive House Charity Challenge.
Returning to its original route through Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted this year, the course included unique new UV pods, where walkers enjoyed being splattered by fluorescent bubbles and captured glowtastic selfies under UV lighting.
First-time walkers Dennis Chemweno, 43, and his daughter Kirsty, a year 7 pupil at The Hemel Hempstead School, from Long Chaulden, completed the 10-mile route with friends Simon and Melanie Belsen, both 44, and their children Leah, 13, Ashleigh, 12, and Aron, 10, from Fields End.
“I did the walk last year with Ashleigh but this year we thought it would be great to do it as a family,” explained Melanie.
“It’s good for the children to get involved and understand how important it is to raise money for great local charities like the Hospice. Lots of our friends have had grandparents or friends who have needed it and they couldn’t have spoken about it more highly.”
Despite wearing a breathing tube to manage his symptoms of chronic lung disease, Bill Barrett, 66, and his wife Vanessa, 69, from Woodhall Farm, Hemel, were determined to complete the five-mile walk for the first time to thank the Hospice for the support Bill has been receiving at home from its community nursing team since last November and help other people.
“My GP recommended that I get help from the Hospice and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Bill. “I didn’t realise the work the Hospice does until it affected me and I needed help and I’ve had more help from the Hospice than anyone. They’ve been a godsend and this is just my way of thanking them for looking after us.”
So far Bill has raised £200 from friends and family. Afterwards, he said, “I kept going because I knew I couldn’t sit down or I’d never get up! My legs turned to jelly at the half way point but I just kept walking and the encouragement from people along the way shouting well done was great. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge, it gave me a lift and it’s all for a good cause. I hope to be back next year!”
Jess England, one of the Flaunden House Charity Captains at The Hemel Hempstead School, walked the five-mile route with six fellow pupils. She said, “It was amazing, a really great night and really good fun – especially the UV pods, which were really cool! We definitely want to do it again and we’re proud to be supporting such a great cause.”
Secure your early bird place today for next year’s Midnight Walk by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org