(Tanks to Nick Bright fiveonabike.com for some stunning photography of the event)
With glowsticks and neon leggings a-plenty, hundreds of men, women and children set Hemel alight on Saturday night at our ninth annual Midnight Walk.
Nearly 600 walkers set off from Hemel Hempstead School at 10pm, weaving through Boxmoor and Apsley to Gadebridge and Chaulden on personal challenges to complete the new five or 10 mile routes - many in memory of someone special.
Between them, they look set to raise over £65k towards the £4.8m the Hospice needs every year to provide its free care for people across Herts and Bucks facing life-limiting illness and support for their families and carers.
Nicky Maxwell-Braithwaite, Events Fundraiser at the Hospice, said: “The atmosphere was electrical and all our midnight walkers were just amazing.
“I want to say a huge thank you to every one of our walkers and 100-plus marshals and volunteers for giving up their time on a Saturday night and to all our kind sponsors who contributed in any way to help raise much-needed funds for the Hospice and helping make it such a special night to remember.”
The first 10-mile walker back was postman Garry Stephens from Gadebridge, who used his knowledge of the roads to power-walk his way to the finish line as part of fellow walker and Heart Angel Michelle Pett’s 40 for 40 team. Garry was second last year and was walking for the third time in memory of his auntie.
Mums and daughters, groups of friends, families and work colleagues from all over Herts and Bucks took part, navigating the flats, downhill stretches and challenging uphills of the walk, showing great spirit, commitment and camaraderie.
Lots of youngsters took part this year, showing their impressive altruistic side. Daisy Oblein, 11, from Boxmoor, was the first over-10 back in a speedy two hours, 40 minutes, completing the walk “to give something back to a local cause” and really enjoying it.
Natalie Christie, from Hemel Hempstead walked as ‘Here Come the Girls’ with her daughter Jodie, 13, friend Sharon Price and Sharon’s daughter Katie, who have completed the walk eight times before, only missing last year to attend a family gathering.
Natalie, who had customised her skirt with pieces of t-shirts from previous Midnight Walks, said, “I’m here to remember lots of friends cared for by the Hospice as well as my uncle John Downey, who passed away 14 years ago today.
“I’m excited to be walking with my daughter for the first time for a great cause and I absolutely love an excuse to dress up in pink and remember friends. We’ve raised £752 but my employer Sainsbury’s in Woodhall Farm has agreed to add £200 so we’ll nearly reach £1k. I’m thrilled!”
One of the first five mile walkers back, Natalie added afterwards, “Uncle John was with me all the way and I’m so pleased to pick up my eighth Midnight Walk medal.”
The six-strong team from VAH DIY store in Berkhamsted enjoyed their first Midnight Walk, with team leaders Naresh and Hansa Govindia, from Berkhamsted, saying after completing 10 miles, “It was great fun. The weather was perfect and we really enjoyed it. The marshals were fantastic and it was fabulous to have so much support along the way.
“We were delighted to accept £20 from a marshal who recognised us and had read our story in the Gazette. We’ve raised £1,300 so far and have had loads of support from customers of our shop, which we’re really grateful for.”
For anyone who missed the Midnight Walk and wants to make a difference to the care the Hospice provides now and in the future, next big fundraising event is the Mud Pack Challenge, taking place at Ashridge House on Sunday 18th October. To sign up or find out more, visit: www.stfrancis.org.uk/mudpack