Can you spot yourself among the thousands with flashing bunny ears at the St Nicholas Hospice Care’s Girls Night Out
- Credit: Andy Abbott
Thousands of pairs of flashing bunny ears lit up Bury St Edmunds last night.
As dusk fell Angel Hill was turned a glittering pink as around 2,000 women lined up in their pyjamas for the 10th year of the St Nicholas Hospice Care’s Girls Night Out walk.
The sponsored event saw participlants walk 11.2 or six miles around the town to raise an estimated £200,000 for the hospice.
This year’s walk, which was supported by main sponsor investment managers J M Finn, was filled with laughter and camaraderie, alongside more tender moments in which walkers remembered loved ones at the memory boards on Angel Hill and at the hospice.
Jenny Smith, the hospice’s events manager, said: “It was an absolutely amazing night. Once again, everyone showed how much they care for the hospice.
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“To see Angel Hill so full of bunny ears made me full of gratitude that so many people made so much effort. It is always emotional to see the walkers set off and to see such wonderful community spirit across the town.
“Every step they took and every penny they raised makes an incredible difference. It means we are able to keep supporting people across our community when they need it most, we are able to keep providing the services those in our care rely on.”
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More than 350 volunteers and marshals supported the walk, while emergency services and airmen from RAF Honington were also on hand.
Jenny added: “We simply could not run Girls Night Out without phenomenal support from across the community.
“Not just all our amazing volunteers, but also the wonderful residents of Bury who clap and cheer the women as they walk round and offer drinks and snacks, and all of our sponsors.
“Thank you to each and every one of them.”
To mark the event’s 10th year the event featured a poignant Memory Minute, which saw walkers pause to take part in a joint act of remembrance before they set off.
Jenna Matthews, 23, from Bury, said: “The memory minute was such a lovely idea. I do the walk in memory of my grandad and to be able to take the time surrounded by thousands of other women all remembering their loved ones really was something special. It’s hard to put into words how it felt. Other than to say magical.”
Altogether the women who took part in the walk will have collectively walked approximately 13,000 miles, with the fundraiser resulting in some £1.2m for the charity over the past 10 years.
Friends Amanda Amps and Sarah Farrow were just two of those who proudly pulled on their bunny ears. With Sarah having done the walk before Amanda said this year was a “trial run” for her.
“We will definitely be doing it again. It’s such a great cause and we are proud to be able to support it,” said Amanda.
For sisters Donna Kavanagh and Nicki Glazebrook, from Stowmarket, who were taking part alongside friends from Slimming World, it was the thought that they were completing the six-mile challenge in memory of their mother that spurred them on.
Donna said: “We lost our mum back in October of last year. She was cared for at home by our father, but we will never forget the support we received from the hospice during that time. They came in and within 10 minutes it was like we had known them forever.
“They were just brilliant. When mum died they were there, and for us it was just like having another member of the family with us.”
The 20-strong team the Barclays Babes saw work friends from the bank’s branches across the area including Bury, Brandon, Thetford and Newmarket come together for a great night out.
“It’s such a brilliant cause and a fantastic event which is brilliantly organised. We just love it. This is the biggest team we have entered, and we are so pleased to be able to support the hospice,” said team member Helen Salter.
Also donning their best pyjamas and comfiest trainers were best friends Sally Hellyer, Maria Graves and Nina Peller. The trio, who are all from Bury, had come together for the fifth time to complete the walk in memory of their friend Tess Betts.
Nina said: “We do the walk for our lovely friend Tess. Tess was just one of those people that you couldn’t help but love. She really did light up a room. After a long and bravely fought battle with cancer she passed away. She was just 36 at the time.
“We walk so everyone can have the care and support Tess and her family did.”
Team Tollgate, from Tollgate School, in Bury, consisted of 27 members and Nicky Burke was with her daughter Lizzie who were carrying out the event for the 10th years in succession and in memory of their husband and father Dave who died of testicular cancer at the age of 30.
“We have done it for him every year,” said Nicky. “And it’s rather poignant as it’s the 10th year of the event and 10 years since Dave died.”
The Bury St Edmunds rickshaw was also taking people round the course with the first passengers being Belle Chilvers from Bury and her daughter Jessie from Ipswich.
As the walkers trod the miles a variety of musical entertainment greeted the women, with a ukulele band, pipe band and solo singers featuring.
And as they crossed the finish line the Rock Choir, a 40-strong choir made-up of members from Cambridge, Ely, Mildenhall, Soham, Brandon and Lakenheath, serenaded them.
“Hearing the choir sing as we got closer to the finish line really was an amazing boost. The whole night has been fantastic and that really was the icing on the cake. I do Girls Night Out with three of my friends. It’s a night that just brings everyone together,” said Sarah Lane, 34, of Sudbury.
Women were also presented with medals before collecting a celebratory cupcake in honour of the walk’s 10th year.
The total raised from the event will take weeks to calculate as walkers return their sponsorship money, however the hospice hopes Girls Night Out 2018 will have resulted in approximately £200,000.
The funds raised by the event will help fund the care the charity provides to those across the area with long-term and life-threatening illnesses.
The hospice’s 11th Girls Night Out walk will return next year on Saturday, 14 September.