A record 900 people braved mud and obstacles at the weekend as they slid, jumped and waded through The Hospice of St Francis’ filthiest fundraiser of the year – its legendary Mud Pack Challenge.
The sold out event, now in its fourth year, took place on Sunday 15th October in the beautiful but very muddy grounds of Ashridge House and has so far raised a phenomenal £115,000 – a figure expected to rise.
The Hospice provides free care and support for patients and families across Herts and Bucks facing life-limiting illness but relies on voluntary donations to fund 80% of its over £5 million annual running costs.
Many individuals and teams from across Herts, Bucks and beyond took to the five or 10-mile Mud Pack route for fun, while others took on the challenge in memory of someone special and to thank the charity for the care and support they have received.
Among those taking part were Marian Gavin, 63, from Hemel Hempstead, and her husband David, 63, who were part of a 10-strong team running in memory of their daughter Nichola Stringer, who passed away at the Hospice in March after a four-year battle with cancer.
Mum-of-two Nichola was diagnosed with cancer just two weeks after the birth of her second child, Michael. The team ‘Nuts for Nic’ completed the course wearing T-shirts with a photo of Nichola and her two children Libby, nine, and Michael, four, on the front.
“It would have been Nichola’s 40th birthday on 24th October, but instead of celebrating that we are doing this,” said Marian. “We wanted to raise money for the Hospice to thank them for looking after Nichola and the family. They have been brilliant with the children and it became a welcome place for them to go and see their mum.
“This is a way we can talk about her again and do some good at the same time. At the moment we’ve raised £1,500 but we’re expecting that to go up.
“The course was great. All the younger ones managed all the obstacles but I was a bit more selective. We came to have fun and Nichola would definitely have had fun!”
Also running in memory were the ‘Three Mudsketeers’ Karen Ross, 55, her son Max Rees, 17, both from Pitstone, and Max’s girlfriend Lucy Taylor, 17, from Tring who were running in memory of Karen’s Dad, Bernard Lambert, who passed away at the Hospice in 2009.
Karen, who has taken part in the Challenge every year since it began, said: “Each year we try to do something to raise money for the Hospice in memory of Dad. This year it was definitely muddier and the hay bales seemed higher but it was so much fun. We’ll be back next year!”
Bethan Tossell, 24, from Berkhamsted, who completed the course two years ago, took part with a team from her local gym. The 14-strong ‘Berkhamsted Fitness Ninjas’ ranged in age from mid-20s to mid-60s and have raised around £3,000 between them.
She said: “The best thing about Mud Pack is the mud and the team work. There was such a good team spirit and we all helped each other round the course, not just our team mates but everyone. You don’t have to be super- fit, it’s about taking part and anyone can do it. There is a great atmosphere.”
Also completing the course was a group of 27 mums from Bridgewater School in Berkhamsted who were recruited to do it in honour of team member Lucy Higgins’ 40th birthday.
“I wanted to do something different to celebrate my 40th and I’d seen Mud Pack advertised and thought it would be a good thing to do,” Lucy said. “I asked at school and lots of mums wanted to join in from across different classes. I thought it would be a lovely bonding thing to do and something for the community.”
Kate Phipps-Wiltshire, Hospice CEO, said: “Mud Pack is immense, you see 900 people covering 5,000 miles and burning 1,000,000 calories between them. You see courage, camaraderie, company support and countless volunteers. What you feel is determination to make a huge contribution borne of love and to test yourself in the process. With £115,000 already raised Mud Pack 2017 does all that. Thank you doesn’t even cover it – unlike the mud!”
Fran Martin, Hospice Events Manager, said: “I want to thank everyone who made Mud Pack 2017 happen - from the participants and volunteers to the marshals and all the local businesses who provided their services free of charge to ensure all the money raised goes towards patient care and not on the cost of staging the event.”
The next Hospice event, which is open to all the family, is its annual Santa Dash taking place on Sunday 10th December at Riverside, Hemel Hempstead. For more details visit www.stfrancis.org.uk/santadash