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Community unites for Midnight Walk in support of local hospice care

Midnight Walk turned Plymouth bright pink as a thousand women and girls came together wearing tee-shirts of that hue to walk across the city, raising vital funds to help ensure local people with terminal illness get high-calibre care that helps them live well to the end of their lives.

On Friday 20 August, saw much-loved local charity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth welcome faces both familiar and new to its hotly anticipated mass participation fundraising event, Midnight Walk, following the sponsored walk’s cancellation last year because of the pandemic. So popular was the event in aid of the compassionate care the hospice provides across Plymouth and surrounding areas that it was a complete sell-out.

Setting off from Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park Stadium, the ladies followed 5, 10 or 15-mile route taking in many Plymouth landmarks, including Smeaton’s Tower and the Barbican. And when the challenge got tough, moral support came in abundance from the spectators who cheered them on from their front gardens and the passing motorists who tooted their horns in solidarity.

The event, sponsored by GA Solicitors, saw many participants walking in memory of lost loved ones, having fun and making new memories as they celebrated the lives of people special to them who will never be forgotten.

Among those taking on the full 15 miles were Caroline Mercer from Salcombe, her daughters Cerys and Tegan and friends Debbie, Emma and Alice. The group was walking in memory of Lyndsey (Lynds) Fisher-Khoury, Caroline’s best friend and godmother to Cerys and Tegan, who was looked after by St Luke’s at Turnchapel before sadly, she died in May 2019.

Caroline said: “Lynds was such a special person – she loved life and was so kind and caring. She was always beautifully dressed and shone in any room yet was so down to earth. She was a lovely godmother, too, and we all miss her so much.

St Luke's Midnight Walk Caroline Mercer

“When Lynds needed St Luke’s care at Turnchapel, they looked after her wonderfully in a beautiful room looking onto the gardens. It helped her husband Mark, and all of us, to see that she was comfortable and at ease in such a peaceful place where nothing was ever too much trouble. Whenever we visited Lynds, we were always made to feel so welcome by the staff and I will never forget their kindness at such heart-breaking time.”

Also walking 15 miles were sisters Tracey Brannan from Crownhill and Suzanne Clough from Brixton, walking in memory of their much-loved grandfather Peter Clough. St Luke’s cared for Peter at home and later at its specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Tracey said: “Doing Midnight Walk this year feels extra special because it’s coming up to ten years since granddad died and it’s our way of paying tribute to him. What stood out to me about St Luke’s was the way their care helped him not just physically but mentally, too. They gave him – and us as a family – the ultimate support throughout. It’s really important to us to show our gratitude because there’s an endless need for what the charity provides.”

St Luke's Midnight Walk Tracey and Suzanne

Suzanne said: “I would have been marrying my fiancé Ashley today, but we postponed because of the pandemic. So, it was wonderful to be in an atmosphere of celebration at Midnight Walk, remembering our amazing granddad and doing our bit for such a vital service for our community.”

Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, Penny Hannah, said: “What an electric atmosphere! A huge, heartfelt thank you to all the ladies who came out to support St Luke’s – you are all incredible and we loved seeing you!

“From the dedications on the backs of all the tee-shirts it was clear to see the positive impact St Luke’s has had on so many local families in need at a time of crisis.

“After the disappointment of having to cancel last year’s Midnight Walk due to COVID-19 safety measures, this year’s event felt even more special. For some of the ladies taking part, it was the first opportunity they have had to reunite with family and friends since losing a loved one during the past 18 months, which have been so incredibly tough for people going through bereavement.

“We are so grateful to everyone who took part. Sponsorship money raised helps keep our team on the road 365 days a year, giving their compassionate care to patients in the comfort of their own home and supporting their families – all of which helps make our community a kinder place for people living and dying with terminal illness and for those close to them, too.

“I also want to thank all the other big-hearted people who make an event of this magnitude possible. That includes our army of amazing volunteers, our sponsors GA Solicitors, Plymouth Argyle, Cheezifit for the fantastic warm-up routine, Devon and Cornwall 4×4 Response Team, Devon and Cornwall Cycle Marshalls, PL1 Events and all the businesses and other organisations who’ve donated products and services. We simply couldn’t have done it without them and we are so grateful.”

Inspired by memories of her beautiful mother who was cared for so compassionately by St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, our charity’s very own Finance Director is set to take a million steps to raise vital funds that will help other local families affected by terminal illness.

Sue Cannon, who joined the senior leadership team at the hospice just over three years ago, is taking on the walking challenge with her sister, Carol Giles. Starting on 1 July, they’ll be clocking up at least 11,000 steps each a day to make sure they reach their target of a million steps each by 30 September.

The sponsorship they raise along the way will go towards the specialist care and support St Luke’s provides 365 days a year for patients at home, in hospital and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Sue and Carol’s mother Christine was looked after by the hospice team at home and at Turnchapel before sadly, she died in 2002.

Sue said: “I’ve had the privilege of working at St Luke’s for over three years now and in my role I see first hand how the efforts of all our supporters help pay for the care our charity gives free of charge to those who need it. I decided it was time to do my bit!

“For Carol and me, taking on this walking challenge is also a way of saying thank you to St Luke’s for being a beacon of light for our family. Our dear mum died far too young at just 55. It was an incredibly difficult time, but the team was so kind, helping dad and us to deal with some of the day-to-day challenges you don’t expect. The practical support and advice we received in addition to the specialist care they gave mum at home and at Turnchapel made such a difference.

“I am especially proud that as well as Finance, Facilities and IT, I am also responsible for the Catering department at the hospice, as this brings back really special memories – the simple joy that our mum got from hearing the tinkle of the drinks trolley and the wonderful home-cooked food she enjoyed.

“Thank you, St Luke’s, for caring for our mum with such warmth and compassion…. Let the steps begin!”

Sue is aiming to raise £1,000 to provide a full package of care, emotional support and practical advice for a family at home – see here.

Leaping 15,000 feet from a plane is an exhilarating way to raise funds for our patient care, but what motivates someone to embrace a challenge many would find too daunting?

For nursery worker Rosie Pryce, 23, it is the memory of her much-loved grandad David, who was looked after at Turnchapel before sadly, he died last November, aged 86. Thanks to the outstanding quality of the care David received after he was transferred from hospital to our specialist unit, Rosie is taking on a skydive as her way of thanking our charity for making his last days of life so peaceful and comfortable.

She said: “Grandad was very frail and his condition was deteriorating so he chose not to have anyone visit him at the unit except my grandma Sylvia and their three children, including my dad Kevin. While it was very hard knowing he was so poorly, it was such a comfort hearing from them that he was being looked after by nurses they described as ‘angels’ whose care they said was ‘perfect’.

“I was so reassured to know grandad was in the best possible place for him, with the privacy of a room where grandma could stay by his side day and night. They were childhood sweethearts and married 64 years so spending this precious time together in such an uplifting environment really made a difference to them both at a difficult time.

“The St Luke’s team made sure grandad was pain free, and the nurses were so kind. They turned his bed so he could enjoy the wonderful views out across the water because they heard how he was mad about all things coastal and once owned a boat.

“I have happy memories of days spent with him by the sea, and his love of outdoor swimming was legendary, so it means a lot to know that he could take in a view that was so meaningful to him.”

“When I heard about the opportunity to do a skydive to raise money to give something back to St Luke’s, it really appealed to me. I’m quite a thrill-seeker anyway and felt like I wanted to do something remarkable for grandad because he was such a kind and special person who always had time for me.

“He was a practical joker and that fun-loving side has rubbed off on all our family. Although it’s a big leap, I think the skydive will be great fun so it’s a fitting way to remember grandad and do good for other local families who need the help of St Luke’s.”

Thank you, Rosie – we really appreciate you taking the plunge for our charity!

With this week, being not just the start of the new year but a whole new decade, many will be looking to set goals for themselves or even take on an exciting challenge for 2020 – or beyond!

What better way to push yourself out of your comfort zone than by getting involved in a challenging and exciting event that also benefits your community? We are urging you to put your best foot forward, take a leap or even scale the world’s longest manmade structure to raise funds that ensures care in our community

Today, we have launched not just one but two of our most popular flagship events, Men’s Day Out and Midnight Walk, giving people the chance to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones while raising much-needed income that helps families make memories together when time is running short.

Men’s Day Out, is loved for the rugby, banter and camaraderie and the unity of walking together raises thousands for St Luke’s. Officially, the region’s biggest men-only sponsored event for charity is back this Saturday 28 March. The event, which is Powered by IU Energy, will see guys gather for a day to remember, striding the city streets before they return to Plymouth Albion RFC for a well-earned pasty and pint and the not-be-missed clash between the home team and their Richmond rivals.

Meanwhile, St Luke’s is inviting ladies to turn Plymouth pink on Saturday 11 July, when its popular Midnight Walk returns. This year, the much-anticipated event, which is sponsored by Nash & Co Solicitors, includes a new challenge – 20 miles for 2020 commencing at 20:20 hrs – in addition to the new 5 and 10-mile routes. That’s not all that’s new, because this year walkers will set off from Home Park (Plymouth Argyle FC) and all will be wearing Midnight Walk’s signature bright pink t-shirts. As always, it promises to be a great night out with the girls, with many walking in memory of loved ones.

Nina Wearne, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, said: “Whether you take part in Men’s Day Out or Midnight Walk as a personal challenge or to celebrate the life of someone special, please know that St Luke’s could not do what they do without the support from you, our kind-hearted community. Perhaps this is your first time, or maybe it’s an event you enjoy year after year; these events are a fantastic way to have loads of fun whilst making a vital difference for local families.”

For those who’d prefer to take the plunge to show their support for St Luke’s, there are opportunities to take part in an exhilarating skydive on Saturday 21 March sponsored by BT Local Business. The 15,000ft leap is free for those who raise a minimum of £395 in sponsorship.

Looking further ahead – a once-in-a-lifetime challenge – The Great Wall of China Trek is taking place from 6 to 14 November 2021, offering participants an unforgettable adventure. Those who are interested are invited to attend an information evening on Tuesday 11 February 2020 to find out more but don’t hold back as registration is already open.

Nina Wearne said: “As well as being a mesmerising experience hiking along one of the most famous structures in the world, this is an opportunity to soak up China’s vast variations in landscape, culture, wildlife and heritage – not to mention cuisine! It’s a fantastic way to do something different and also make a difference.”

Details of these and all St Luke’s flagship fundraising events are available here.