Oliver took part in our Starlight Hike at St John's Hospice. He's kindly written about the experience.
As we climbed from our car, parked in a field in Bedfordshire, and joined the crowds following the music to a cluster of tents we could almost have been at a festival. As it was, we were arriving at the Starlight Hike, both a night time sponsored walk and a chance to reflect on the work of Sue Ryder St John's Hospice in Moggerhanger. My wife, Sarina, works for Sue Ryder and wasn't going to miss a chance to get me to chip in. This hospice is particularly special to us as my mother in law's best friend spent her last days here a few years ago.
A team of enthusiastic volunteers welcomed us and dangled the carrot of a free cup of tea and a bacon roll - but only if we finished the hike!
We arrived at the starting line to see a field of flashing deely boppers (seemingly mandatory headwear for the evening) spinning and swaying as shouts of encouragement were delivered from a stage during the Zumba warm-up. With half an eye on the evening's exertions still to come I limited myself to shuffling my feet back and forth like an uncle at a wedding disco before the champagne kicks in. Kudos to those who danced their socks off and then walked ten kilometres.
Numbers pinned to our shirts, we set off into the night. A trip around the field dealt with the first kilometre and then we were off into the village streets and beyond. Just after the second kilometre we passed through an honour guard of local line dancers.
This sort of thing cropped up at regular intervals. Just as our feet began to drag around the next corner would be a group of youngsters enthusiastically thrashing guitars or majorettes twirling ribbons and sending us on our way. My favourite was the barbershop quarter who serenaded us as we arrived at the hospice building. The walkers in front of us pointed up at a window 'Wave at dad - that's where he stayed' they said as they all waved at the empty window.
A time to remember
At this point we arrived at the remembrance garden, a chance to pause for a moment and think of friends or family no longer with us. Many of those taking part had a strong personal connection to the hospice, with the names of loved ones displayed alongside their numbers.
It happened to be the weekend of our wedding anniversary, a date shared with a friend of Sarina's who passed from cervical cancer two years ago. Sarina wrote her name on a paper star and I hung it on the branch of a tree wrapped in twinkling lights.
The night was getting late as we left the garden so we pressed on to the finishing line and some well earned refreshments.
Don't forget it's not too late to donate to an excellent cause. Sue Ryder provide amazing, personalised care to people and it really makes a difference at the end of their life. It also makes a difference to the loved ones and families - this was obvious by the enthusiasm and affection all the walkers showed.
We hold Starlight Hike events across several of our hospices. You can see what people have been tweeting. If you took part, we'd love to hear how you got on and see your photos! Search our events listing to see what's coming up.