More than 200 hospice superstars donned their t-shirts, trainers, tiaras and huge smiles to take part in a 10k night walk for people in need of the charity’s specialist end of life care services.
This year’s event started and finished at the Liberty Shopping Centre in Romford on Saturday 22 September.
The Only Way is Essex star Georgia Kousoulou added a touch of glamour and together with her personal trainer Danny-Lee Finch, Director of VIP HQ Essex, helped supporters warm up for the trek!
Havering Mayor Cllr Dilip Patel gave a special welcome and the Hospice’s Medical Director Corinna Midgley thanked everyone for coming along and told them their efforts would help to make a difference to people affected by life-limiting illnesses.
There were some extra special touches on the night including a spectacular performance from Zoe and Sam Jeffery from Dazzle Dance Centre and Hanna Prue from Twinkle Stars Entertainment used her artistic skills to sprinkle a touch of sparkle to walkers.
Talented baker Toni Cordell from Natty Cakes donated a customised three tier cake to celebrate the Star Walk’s 10th anniversary.
While there was a party atmosphere, it was also an emotional event as many people were taking part in memory of loved ones and a wall was set up inside the shopping centre so people could write special tributes and messages.
Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for arrived and Georgia cut the ribbon at the start line before walkers set off on the five-lap course.
As walkers passed each lap, firefighters from Romford Fire Station stamped their hands.
Two fabulous singers – teenage busking sensation Josh Gleaves and supporter Skip Atkins – were positioned along the route and they played a variety of well-known hits to keep everyone on their toes – including the volunteers and stewards who were dancing in the street.
And as they passed the finish line, everyone was greeted with a huge applause and a well-deserved medal!
Here’s what some of the Star Walk-ers had to say:
Bob Ballantyne, 61, from Brentwood, was able to raise £2,000 and was wheeled around the route by his daughters Scarlett Ballantyne and Bryony Smith, along with her husband George Smith.
Bob, who currently attends the Hospice’s day services at Pemberton Place to take part in social and exercise groups, even customised his wheelchair for the event by adding flashing lights.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Bob.
“I feel very honoured to be able to give something back to the Hospice as it has looked after me for the past year.”
Julie Tointon-Mahandru, from Hornchurch, was the first to pass the finish line with her sister Jane Tointon.
“Taking part in the yearly Saint Francis Hospice Star Walk is invigorating and thoroughly enjoyable but the knowledge that we are giving back, through our kind sponsors, and making a difference, is what drives us to do it and we will continue to do so,” said Julie, whose husband Dee was cared for at the Hospice.
“Our gratitude to Saint Francis Hospice for everything it has done – and still do – will never fade. Thank you!”
Jodie Buckland, from Dagenham, who was walking with her friends in memory of her Nan, said, “The walk was brilliant, we really enjoyed it.
“So many extra surprises we didn’t know there would be.
“We spent most of the time chatting about our Nans and the memory wall where we could put a message up on was a brilliant idea.
“Thank you for an amazing night, I couldn’t be prouder of the amount of money we have managed to raise for such an amazing charity.”
Janet Abbott, 60, from Hainault, took part in her 10th Star Walk in memory of her mum Ivy Lyons who was cared for by the charity’s Hospice at Home team.
“It was a brilliant evening and I chatted all the way around with the nurses and staff from the Hospice’s Specialist Community and Crisis Support team,” said Janet, who works as a part-time Practice Nurse.
“There was a great atmosphere and it was over before you knew it.”
Salli Hope Bennett spent the last weeks of her life at the Hospice and her loving husband Howard and her daughter Amanda Green took part in her memory.
Their team name was Walking with Hope and they were joined by her husband Stuart, son Matt and her friends Jo Baker and Chris Gentle and Chris’ son Finlay.
“I loved being part of the Saint Francis Hospice Star Walk for the second time,” said, Amanda from South Woodford.
“There was a great uplifting atmosphere even on a drizzly, chilly night.
“It was wonderful to be able to fundraise and give back for the amazing care my mum was given.
“Thanks to all the organisers, staff and volunteers there on the night.
“Excellent job! See you there next year!”