A nine-year-old boy who ran a Santa dash through Hemel Hempstead in memory of his late mother yesterday (Sunday) got a surprise when his team-mates from Hemel Hempstead (Camelot) Rugby Club joined him.
Sam Morley, from Shothanger Way, Bovingdon ran in memory of mother Elizabeth and grandfather Michael Beever, who both received care from The Hospice of St Francisin Berkhamsted, who organise the event, now in its seventh year.
His team-mates at Camelot under-10’s rugby squad even cancelled their Sunday morning match so that coaches, parents and the rest of the team could run alongside Sam, unbeknown to him until the day of the race.
Sam’s dad, David said: “Sam was just going to do it on his own, but I emailed Sam’s coach, Jamie, to ask if he’d share Sam’s fundraising link and the next thing I knew, they’d cancelled their fixture and decided to surprise Sam by dashing alongside him.
“Sam was a bit overwhelmed but really happy when he saw them all and shows that true team spirit isn’t just about going out and winning.
“The care Liz received from the hospice’s nurses at home before she died in April 2012 and the care Michael received in the hospice before he passed away in September this year was exceptional and we just wanted to show our debt and gratitude.”
Sam’s coach Jamie Beck said: “It was an amazingly positive atmosphere, running with so many people who in one way or another, have been touched by the magnificent work that the Hospice of St Francis does.
“The whole thing was truly astounding.”
More than 450 people took part in the run around the town started by Hemel MP Mike Penning in the Riverside.
Sprinters set off first, scooters and bikes followed, and strollers, buggies and wheelchairs brought up the rear with festively dressed dogs taking part as well.
Hundreds of spectators, shopkeepers and walkers lined the route, which weaved through Hemel Old Town, Gadebridge Park and back to Riverside through the Water Gardens.
First over the finish line for the second year running was 15-year-old Cavendish School pupil and Watford Athletics Club runner Thomas Rayner, from Chaulden, in a time of just under 14 minutes.
He said: It’s a great community event and a fantastic fun for a brilliant cause.”
Mums Angharad Harrison, 31, from Bridge Street, Berkhamsted and Sarah Vloothius, 29, from Chesham Road, Wigginton, took part as the Yummy Mummy Santa Honeys with their four-month-old babies Samuel and Jack dressed as an elf and a Christmas parcel.
Sarah said: “It’s our first year doing this and it just looked like such a fun thing to do in the run-up to Christmas for a great cause.”
Ollie Boggis, 10, from Bennetts End, was one of many of school children who took part.
Ollie, a pupil at Nash Mills C of E School raised £250 for the hospice for the second year running and had the time of his life.
Theo and India Karia, from Boxmoor Primary School, raised £800 for the hospice, with Boxmoor Primary winning the Dashers Cup for entering the biggest team featuring more than thirty staff, children and families, including head teacher Vicky Evans.
Community fundraiser Andrea Grant said she was delighted with how well the dash went although the exact amount raised has not yet been finalised.
She said: “We are so grateful for the amazing support we’ve received.
“We’d like to thank John Darin from Heart 96 radio for being such a great MC, Mike Penning for all his support, Smiths Coffee for providing refreshments, Lennons solicitors for being sponsors and Riverside Shopping Centre for hosting.
“And of course, huge thanks to our volunteers and marshals not to mention more than 450 Santas who took part, so many of whom come back year after year to support the dash.
“It really was a perfect way to get the festive season properly underway!”