Thousands glowed for it on Saturday at Suffolk’s biggest ever neon party. The tenth birthday of the Midnight Walk saw more than 2,200 people take part in St Elizabeth Hospice’s flagship event – a record-breaking number.
The neon-clad walkers lit up Ipswich town on Saturday night as they walked in aid of their local hospice. The event is set to raise around £150,000 for the charity.
As the sun set the walkers gathered together to soak up the party atmosphere at Ipswich Town Football Club on Portman Road before embarking on the five or ten mile walks. There was plenty to entertain walkers before they set off, as well as along the route, including a photobooth, face painters, samba band, podium dancers, neon air socks and more.
Anyone aged ten and upwards was able to take part in the neon themed event this year with many embracing the theme, wearing brightly coloured leg warmers, tutus, headbands and sweatbands, along with glow in the dark bunny ears and glowsticks, as well as their exclusive neon Midnight Walk T-shirt. .
Catherine Sheppard, St Elizabeth Hospice’s events and challenges fundraiser, said: “It was an absolutely incredible night with an amazing atmosphere, and we’re delighted to say that our tenth birthday has been a record-breaking year, with more people than ever before taking part, raising an estimated £150,000.
“Everyone looked fantastic and it was lovely to see thousands of people glowing along the streets of Ipswich, united for one cause, raising money for the hospice.”
Before they set off, speeches were given by hospice chairman, William Barnes, supporter, Christina Wise, and hospice patient, Maxine Gould, to inspire the walkers and volunteers.
Mrs Gould, who also spoke at last year’s Midnight Walk, said: “For the past two weeks I have been a patient in the inpatient unit at the hospice to help manage my pain. From the moment I arrived there were people everywhere and before I knew it I was chilled out and relaxed in bed.
“I was told not to worry about anything. When I was in pain, they were there, and I really needed that. I must say, I feel so comfortable at the hospice. To actually sleep in the garden, nap in the summer house – and wow, the food is amazing. My break there has been incredibly comfortable. Happiness rules at this hospice, It’s not a dreary place. It’s a very happy, motivated, wonderful place.
“If I wake up and I simply want a hug, it doesn’t matter that I’m 51 years old, I get a hug and sometimes that’s all I need and it means so very much.
“Ipswich hospice, really and truly is incredible.”
Christina Wise, who walks in memory of her husband, Andy Wise, who died at the hospice in March 2014, said: “When St Elizabeth Hospice asked me to give this speech tonight I did not hesitate in saying yes, which 2 years ago I would never have had the courage to do. My journey and experience with St Elizabeth Hospice has helped me grow from a frightened bereaved wife and mother into a strong young widow who now stands here before you.
“I will always support the hospice and spread the word of the amazing work that they do for our local community and will always be in their debt. I want to change people’s misguided perception of the hospice and hope to do this through my continued fundraising and ambassador work.
” It is amazing to see so many people here tonight looking amazing and all here for one reason. I hope my story and journey so far inspires more people like yourselves to support the hospice for years to come as nobody knows what is round the corner and 2 years ago I never expected to be standing here.”
Many people, like Mrs Wise, walk in memory of loved ones cared for by St Elizabeth Hospice, and both routes poignantly passed the Tree of Remembrance at the hospice on Foxhall Road, where participants were able to hang a personalised tag on the tree in memory of loved ones no longer with us.
Miss Sheppard added: “Having Christina and Maxine speak about the care they have received from the hospice and the support they want to give back was heartwarming and emotional for many. It brought home to everyone how vital the hospice is for the local community, as well as how important events like the Midnight Walk are to enable the hospice to continue to provide its essential services to the people of east Suffolk.
“Both ladies really inspired the crowd, and I think their words and sentiment would have helped walkers if they were struggling on the route to keep going, and to finish the walk and raise more money for the hospice for families like the Gould’s and the Wise’s.”
Following the emotional speeches, Just Jay Dance Group energised the crowd with their dance routines and then led the warm up to get everyone ready for the walk. They led the pop-tastic warm-up with the help of Town 102 DJs Paul Morris, Tony Horton and Wayne Bavin, and mascot, Cheeko the Monkey.
Walkers left the football stadium at 10pm through a sea of UV bubbles. The ten mile walkers stopped for refreshments at the Royal George and both routes stopped at the hospice on Foxhall Road, where there were plenty of biscuits and drinks served by volunteers.
The first walkers arrived back at Portman Road just before midnight and all participants received a tenth birthday edition Midnight Walk medal and a well-deserved hot chocolate as they were cheered over the finish line by hospice cheerleaders.
Miss Sheppard thanked the 200 plus volunteers who gave their time between 8pm on Saturday and 6am the following day to make the event a success.
She added: “Without our incredible volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to put on a scale of this event and raise such a fantastic amount so I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who gave up their time in the run up to the event and on the night. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
Thank you’s also went out to: our guest speakers, hospice chairman, William Barnes, supporter, Christina Wise and patient, Maxine Gould; the Just Jay Dance Group; Best Badges; GMA Warehousing and Transport; DM Boothhire; Shirley’s Faces and Fran’s Face Painting; Dr Fin Perth; BustaSnax; East of England Co-Op; In Shed; Ipswich Leisure Activity; Ipswich Town Football Club; The Royal George; Makro; Marybell; Vowtow Events; Eclipse; Neal Chattenham; Sambooma; SkyCam; Dave Sparrow; St John’s Ambulance; Capel Plant Holdings; Claydon Skip Hire; Suffolk Constabulary Police Cadets; photographers Phil Smith and Charlie Mann from www.photographyby.co.uk and Bob Foyers from www.foyers.photography and our media partners, East Anglian Daily Times, Ipswich Star and Town 102.
The Midnight Walk is kindly sponsored by the East Anglian Daily Times, Ipswich Star and Town 102 and hospice staff would like to express their gratitude for the media’s continued support.
Did you have your photo taken but one of the professional photographers. You can see the pictures they took and buy them here
If you had your photo taken in the photobooth, you can look at and buy your pictures here