More than 600 charity walkers lit up the night with their flashing bunny ears on Saturday, pledging an incredible £75,000 for The Hospice of St Francis at its eighth annual Midnight Walk.
In a special night of celebration and remembrance, the pink-clad walkers pounded the pavements between Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted, grateful that the rain had passed.
The biggest team of the night was from Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted, with 20 teaching and support staff walking as Jan’s Angels in memory of their former colleague and head of PSHE (personal, social and health education), Jan Mackenzie.
Families, friends, work colleagues, couples and individuals all took part, supporting the Berkhamsted-based hospice, which cares for people living with life-shortening illnesses and relies on voluntary donations for 80 per cent of its £4.7m a year running costs.
Actress Rosie Marcel, who plays surgeon Jac Naylor in Holby City, rallied walkers in the warm-up and sounded the all-important starting klaxon for the Midnight Walk.
Speaking on the night, she said: “I’m just bowled over by the incredible atmosphere here tonight.
“Having had a good friend who received hospice care, I know how important hospices are and it’s just fantastic to see so many people here tonight, looking very pretty in pink and showing true allegiance to this fantastic local charity.
“Well done everyone, you’re all amazing!”
As the masses gathered at Hemel Hempstead School, compere Gary Vizon kept the crowds entertained with lively banter and music.
Tail-end walkers Paul Malekos and Marcos James, from The Fitness Society, dressed as Baywatch lifeguards to put the walkers through their paces with a lively 10-minute warm up before the first fast 11-mile walkers were dispatched into the night.
Charlotte Hearn, 21, from Green Lane, Bovingdon, and Jules Pigott, 46, and her daughter Abby, 12, from The Copse, Hemel Hempstead, were the first five-mile walkers to power home, completing the circular route from Hemel Hempstead to Boxmoor and back in an impressive 65 minutes.
“It was brilliant fun and a great feeling to have got back first!” said first-time walker Charlotte, 21, part of Marion’s Maids.
The Marion’s Maids team walked in memory of her grandma Marion Keeling to thank the hospice for giving her family two precious extra weeks with Marion before she died in April.
Walking for the eighth successive year, veteran walker Maureen Godfrey, from Windmill Road, Hemel Hempstead, was the first 11-mile walker to cross the finish line, completing the circular loop to Berkhamsted Sports Centre and back in a speedy two hours and 31 minutes.
“I just followed the lead walkers Kate, Simon and Gaye,” said hairdresser Maureen, 58, who was walking in memory of her mum, Lilo.
She said: “I want to raise as much money as I can for the hospice. It really needs our support.”
By the end of the night, a memory wall was filled with the names of loved ones lost but never forgotten – mums, dads, daughters, sons, grandparents and friends.
Adding one of several tributes to former colleague and friend, Jan Mackenzie, who was just 59 when she died of cancer in February, Jan’s Angels team member Caroline Manson, from Berkhamsted, said: “The last time we walked in 2010, Jan was walking with us.
“All 20 of us feel privileged to walk in Jan’s memory and raise £2.5k for the hospice – it just shows how much Jan was loved and how much people value the hospice.”
Hospice director of nursing and clinical governance Alison Allard said it was ‘the most magical night’.
She said: “Without our Midnight Walkers, we couldn’t continue to do what we do. We’d just like to thank all those who walked, volunteered, marshalled, sponsored and supported the event. We simply couldn’t have done it without you!”
> A picture slideshow of the event will follow shortly.