The Midnight Walk is celebrating its 10th birthday this year, and it’s set to be the biggest and best yet, with an outstanding 1,850 men and women already signed up to show their support for St Elizabeth Hospice on Saturday 7 May.
One of the hundreds of people signed up is Christina Wise. She is preparing for her third Midnight Walk, in memory of her husband Andy.
For Christina, Andy and their two children, Oliver and Grace, the hospice became their second home when Andy was admitted as an inpatient for nine weeks in early 2014.
Christina said: “He was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2011, but he never let that stop him getting on with life. He would say he would wake up every morning and think to himself, ‘I still have my wonderful wife and children to support’ and that is how he coped with having cancer. He continued to be an amazing daddy to Oliver and Grace, playing with them, cycling and coaching Oliver’s rugby team even if it meant he would spend the rest of the day in bed shattered.
The children also benefited from music and art therapy and were fortunate enough to record a special musical tribute to their dad the day before he died which was played to him at his funeral.
On Wednesday 19th March 2014 Andy died peacefully at the hospice surrounded by his family and friends.
Christina added: “Without the hospice it would have been a much tougher journey and our appreciation for everything they do holds no bounds. They were like one big huge hug and comfort blanket and they continue to support Oliver, Grace and I to this day through bereavement counselling.”
23 people will be walking the five mile route with Christina in a band of supporters who call themselves ‘Andy’s Army’. They are all local people who remain in close contact with Christina and organise a variety of fundraising events for Andy’s St Elizabeth Tribute Fund.
To date, the group have raised an incredible £33,000 in Andy’s name for the hospice.
“We do not intend to stop there! We love the atmosphere of the Midnight Walk and of course dressing up – we are looking forward to getting our matching neon outfits on!”
For many people, St Elizabeth Hospice has continually been a part of their lives.
Lindsay Walker, a member of a local brass band, will be rising to the challenge with nine fellow band-members to walk the 10 mile route at the Midnight Walk this year which starts and finishes at Ipswich Town Football Club – and they will all be coming straight from playing in a concert that evening.
Lindsay said: “Personally, the hospice affected me when my Grandfather was in there when he was terminally ill around 19 years ago. They cared for him so well especially at the end, and I remember as a child that despite there being some very poorly people in there, it always felt like a very warm and happy place and not at all a scary place for a child to be.”
Over the years the band has known several people who have been supported by the hospice. One of their own band members, Brain, their principle cornet player, died in January of this year after a battle with cancer.
Lindsay added: “Brain was fortunate to have the care and support of the hospice at what was an incredibly difficult time not only for himself, but also for his family too.”
The band has raised money for the hospice every Christmas for 19 years, but felt that after Brian died this year they wanted to give back a little more.
“We are doing the walk as a thank you for looking after one of our own “Band Family” members.”
Since 2007 the Midnight Walk has always been a great way for people to unite and show their support for St Elizabeth Hospice, and this year’s 10th birthday celebration will be no different.
Claire Allen is another supporter taking on the Midnight Walk in three weeks’ time. Claire’s mother, Yvonne Vars, was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2014 that required very aggressive treatment.
“The tumour was so large that she had to have emergency radiotherapy to save her life. By the time it grew back, it was spreading everywhere. So although chemo was working it was already too late. The side effects from the intense radiotherapy left mums legs swollen which made her very immobile and wheelchair bound” said Claire.
These months were very difficult for Claire and her mum, who had previously lived in San Diego, California for 12 years. Her mother was in severe pain.
It was recommended that she be admitted to St Elizabeth Hospice so they could help manage her pain.
“Originally she didn’t want to go. Her fear was that the hospice was a place you went to go to die. After some persuasion and the fact that the pain was too much she agreed to go. When she got there and they got the pain under control, she did a full 180 on her views of the hospice.”
For many patients and their families, the hospice is a place where they feel safe and secure.
“She had company, food that she enjoyed and despite her lack of mobility, she felt better.
Unfortunately Claire’s mum took a sudden turn for the worse and one month after going into the hospice she died.
This will be Claire’s first time walking the Midnight Walk. She came across the event on Facebook which brought it to her attention.
“I sent a message to my friends to ask if they fancied joining in, and obviously they were up for it. Other than being for a great cause it’s a good excuse for us to all get together!”
Claire and her group of ‘Happy Feet’ are doing the ten mile route. Along with those walking the five mile route, they will have the chance to hang a personalised tag on the Tree of Remembrance as they pass the hospice on Foxhall Road.
“For some of us 10 miles will be ‘easy’, but it will definitely be a massive challenge for at least one of us.
“We are really looking forward to it and love the neon theme!”
Claire wants to raise money to help support the hospice, and has already raised more than £160 on her St Elizabeth Hospice Giving Page.
“The hospice was, and still is, invaluable to me.”