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Colchester’s 10th annual Midnight Walk attracts nearly 1,000 fundraisers

PUBLISHED: 17:14 24 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:33 24 June 2018

People from all walks of life gathered for Saturday's Midnight Walk at St Helena Hospice Picture: LYDIA POLOM/ST HELENA HOSPICE

People from all walks of life gathered for Saturday's Midnight Walk at St Helena Hospice Picture: LYDIA POLOM/ST HELENA HOSPICE

LYDIA POLOM/ST HELENA HOSPICE

Just short of 1,000 fundraisers sporting wacky headwear brightened the streets of Colchester last night as they set out for the 10th annual Midnight Walk.

Over 900 people turned out for the walk on Saturday night Picture: LYDIA POLOM/ST HELENA HOSPICEOver 900 people turned out for the walk on Saturday night Picture: LYDIA POLOM/ST HELENA HOSPICE

The heartwarming event, which this year went with the theme ‘hats and hair dos’, is run by St Helena Hospice – and serves as the biggest fundraiser in the charity’s packed calendar of events. It is hoped that this year’s event, attended by over 900 walkers, will raise £85,000 for hospice care.

One of the many colourfully-dressed fundraisers taking part in the event was 64-year-old Maureen Hanley from Colchester.

Ms Hanley said she was inspired to take on the challenge having worked as part of the hospice’s fundraising team for two and a half years.

She said: “I just think the hospice is fantastic, and want to do anything I can to support them.

Maureen Hanley, from Colchester, has worked for St Helena Hospice for two and a half years Picture: AMY GIBBONSMaureen Hanley, from Colchester, has worked for St Helena Hospice for two and a half years Picture: AMY GIBBONS

“The stories on our website are heartbreaking and the staff and volunteers are just absolutely wonderful – they are so dedicated and nothing is too much for them to do, so it is just a fantastic place to work.

“I think it’s raising the profile of the hospice in the community, and I think that’s massive. I don’t think people realise just how much the hospice does – not just in Myland Hall but out in the community and in patients’ homes. I just don’t think people know much about it, so I think this is a wonderful opportunity.”

St Helena, which looks after people with terminal illness in north Essex, cares for around 10,000 families every year.

It was a particularly special night for organisers and participants alike, as the walk celebrated its 10th birthday – reflecting on a whole decade raising thousands of pounds for those with life-limiting illnesses. It was also the first year that men were invited to join the party.

Richard and Sarah Neal, Taylor Janna and Fran Campbell were walking in memory of their beloved friend and relative Michael Neal Picture: AMY GIBBONSRichard and Sarah Neal, Taylor Janna and Fran Campbell were walking in memory of their beloved friend and relative Michael Neal Picture: AMY GIBBONS

Another group of walkers, Richard and Sarah Neal, Taylor Janna and Fran Campbell, took to the streets of Colchester in memory of their close friend and relative, Michael Neal, who sadly passed away in April. Also there to support them were Mary Neal, Shane Jandra and Morgan Campbell.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Richard said: “My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and towards the end he was treated by St Helena Hospice, and looked after brilliantly – so we’re just here to thank them for that.

“It’s one of our little ways of keeping his memory alive and also thanking the team at St Helena who did such a fab job.”

This year’s walk was blessed with the perfect weather, with walkers setting off on a warm night at around 10.30pm.

Sarah Boynton and family sporting Hawaiian-themed accessories for the big night Picture: AMY GIBBONSSarah Boynton and family sporting Hawaiian-themed accessories for the big night Picture: AMY GIBBONS

Walkers were invited to take part in either the 3-mile or 7.5-mile route – starting and finishing at Stanfords, The Livestock Market, in Wyncolls Road.

Before setting off, they were treated to peformances from fire jugglers, a local choir, clog dancers and a dance troupe – as well as a lively group warm up.

Along the way, there was an opportunity for those walking in memory of a loved one to have a quiet moment to attach a personal message to a tree, located at Colchester Rugby Club, in Mill Road.

Lynn and Trevor Street, husband and wife from Colchester, were proud to walk in memory of a number of loved ones affected by cancer – including Lynn’s parents, Fred and Hazel Gilbert.

The 'Crisp Walkers' looking forward to the big event Picture: AMY GIBBONSThe 'Crisp Walkers' looking forward to the big event Picture: AMY GIBBONS

The ‘Crisp Walkers’, dressed in wacky headbands made from crisp packets, were also keen to support the charity which had shown them such fantastic support in tragic circumstances.

A spokesperson for the group said: “We always want to support the hospice because of the work it does generally – but specifically they were really supportive to our whole family when my dad was very ill at the beginning of the year. So that’s particularly in our minds tonight.”

Crossing the finish line from midnight the walkers were congratulated with a special 10th anniversary medal and a donut.

Lisa Chenery, events fundraiser, said: “The night was an incredible success, it was quite overwhelming to see so many men and women together to support their local hospice. The atmosphere was electric and the dance moves were on point – it was one of our best walks to date.

Husband and wife team, Lynn and Trevor Street, chose to walk in memory of Lynn's parents Fred and Hazel Gilbert, as well as friends Sharon Bloomfield and Lynn Fraser Picture: AMY GIBBONSHusband and wife team, Lynn and Trevor Street, chose to walk in memory of Lynn's parents Fred and Hazel Gilbert, as well as friends Sharon Bloomfield and Lynn Fraser Picture: AMY GIBBONS

“A huge thank you to everyone who took part in the walk and for those who volunteered or provided their services which helped make the night such a huge success.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Fenwick, Elms Price and Greyfriars Colchester for their support.”

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