4:00pm Sunday 11th September 2011
By Emily Roberts
IT looked like the largest hen party in the world as hundreds of women dressed in matching T-shirts with flashing bunny rabbit ears on their heads took to the streets of Basingstoke.
While this was no pre-wedding party, there was certainly a party atmosphere as the participants gathered for St Michael’s Hospice third Midnight Walk.
Anyone walking through Festival Place before the start of the late-night charity event might have had a bit of a surprise.
About 700 women met up in the shopping centre last Saturday, some in fancy dress and others in their pyjamas. There were even a few imposters, as men dressed up in women’s clothes to take part in the walk.
Many were walking in memory of loved ones who had died at the hospice, in Aldermaston Road, and a special memory message board was set up for people to write notes to family or friends on a heart-shaped piece of paper.
David Monkman, chief executive of the charity, thanked everyone for coming along to the event, which has now become the hospice’s biggest fundraising event.
He told the fundraisers: “The people who took part for the last two years raised an incredible £195,000 which is fantastic. It costs £3.3million annually to run the hospice, of which only 20 per cent comes from the NHS. The amount for our services is going up all the time. The money you raise tonight will go directly to these services so thank you very much.”
The floor of the shopping centre shook as the force of hundreds of women could be felt in a mass warm-up at 11.45pm, before Basingstoke MP Maria Miller officially started the walk after leading a minute’s silence to remember lost loved ones.
Within seconds, Festival Place was empty as hundreds of walkers set out on either a six-mile or 11-mile route around the town at midnight.
Among those taking part in the 11-mile walk was Margo Scannelli, who had already run six miles and cycled 12 miles the same day, after taking part in the Bramley Iron Mums challenge in the morning.
The 49-year-old mother-of-two, from Bramley, said: “I have had lots of coffee and I think that’s what’s keeping me going. I didn’t realise the events were on the same day and I considered ducking out but decided to go for it.”
Debbie Jarvis took part in memory of her mother Pat Hardman, from Abbey Road, Popley, who died in the hospice in February of cancer, aged 75.
The 40-year-old mother-of-three, from London, said: “My mum was in the hospice for nine days after finding out just a few weeks before that she had cancer. I got married while she was in there and she watched it on Skype in the hospice. That was on the Friday, and she died on the Monday. The hospice team were so good and I want to say thank you for that”
Walkers stopped off at a refreshment point set up near the hospital, where tea, coffee and hot chocolate was given out.
The six-mile walkers started finishing after one hour 40 minutes, arriving at the finish line where members of The Rotary Club of Basingstoke Deane gave out well-deserved bacon butties to participants who all received a medal for their efforts.
Bradley Uren was first to complete the 11-mile route in just two hours and 30 minutes. The 30-year-old, from Southern Road, Basingstoke, took part in memory of his brother Spencer, who died of pancreatic cancer in May 2009, aged just 37.
Wearing a women’s dress and a smile of achievement, he said: “Spencer was in the hospice for a while and this is a way for me to do something for them.”
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