A new-look Manchester Midnight Walk attracted a capacity turnout of 1,200 walkers at the weekend.
Organisers St Ann’s Hospice were delighted with the response after its annual 10km city centre walk switched to a new start and finish line outside Manchester Cathedral.
The charity’s flagship fundraising event was also brought forward two months in the calendar, adding a further fresh look to the 12th edition of the moonlit walk which has raised almost £2m since it began.
Late-night revellers on their way home also made spontaneous donations as walkers went on a loop past landmarks the Hilton Hotel, old Granada Studios, Spinningfields, Manchester Arena and the Northern Quarter.
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The crowds were given a rousing send-off inside the cathedral which was rocking to disco music as part of the pre-walk entertainment.
The party was hosted by BBC broadcaster Phil Trow and long-time St Ann’s supporter Paul Hazelby, who has raised more than £100,000 for the charity.
Participants were raising money for the care of hospice patients in Heald Green, Little Hulton and the Neil Cliffe Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital, plus various outreach and community services.
Eamonn O’Neal, Chief Executive of St Ann’s, said: “We’re always amazed at the warmth and generosity people from across Greater Manchester have for our charity, but to see so many gathered together on Friday having a great time and raising money for our patients was overwhelming.
“Just looking at everyone setting off on the walk, and realising each one has their own personal motivation for supporting us, or experience of St Ann’s, was incredible.
“People in Greater Manchester have an amazing spirit, drive and sense of pride, and we certainly saw that in droves at the Midnight Walk.
“As we all know, there have been some terrible events which the people of Manchester have had to endure, and to see everyone come together in support of us in this way was really emotional. We can’t thank everyone who took part enough.
“As a charity we only receive about a third of our funding from the NHS, so rely on the kind generosity of the public to help us raise around £20,000 every day, which is what we need to continue providing our care.
“We’re really looking forward to receiving everyone’s sponsorship money so we can find out how much has been raised at the event.”
Sally Lindsay joins in the fun
Actress Sally Lindsay enjoys long walks during filming breaks so for her a late night stroll through Manchester was taken in her stride.
The former Coronation Street star was among a 20-strong group of friends taking part.
Sally divides her time between London and her home in Heaton Mersey and was quick to sign up for the popular 10km walk.
She said: “I’ve probably already walked 10km today before getting the train from London where I like to walk when I’m not filming.
“It’s the first time I’ve done the Midnight Walk and the atmosphere is fabulous. I’ve had a lot of family and friends treated at St Ann’s and I’ve known the chief executive Eamonn O’Neal for many years.
“Last year a close relative who died had a place in the hospice but didn’t quite make it there. St Ann’s offers peace of mind and palliative care for a time when for everyone it’s the best place to be and helps so many people.”
Dinner lady Jackie Clayton sponsored her family in the Manchester Midnight Walk, even though she was not alive to see them take part.
Jackie, from Hazel Grove, died of cancer on her 64th birthday, a month before St Ann’s Hospice staged its annual flagship fundraising event.
Daughter Amanda Walton led a team calling themselves Midnight Bloom.
Jackie’s daughters-in-law Jodie and Sarah Clayton joined in a walk tinged with sadness for family and friends. They have raised almost £2,000 for the hospice where Jackie was a patient – she also worked at Hazel Grove Primary School for 30 years.
Amanda said: “Mum was diagnosed two years ago and knew we were doing the walk so wanted to sponsor us.
“We saw what St Ann’s does when mum went in. The hospice cared for her and we realised how important raising funds is because it makes a difference.”
Runner Helen Fraser kept going until the end as she fought a brain tumour, so husband Don was determined to go the extra mile in her memory.
Don, from Heaton Moor, in Stockport, was part of an 18-strong team, Don’s Dawdlers.
Helen spent her final days at the Heald Green hospice before she died in March last year, aged 56. She worked for the NHS in Stockport after 13 years as an IT lecturer at Stockport College.
Helen, a member of Stockport Harriers and veteran of 10 marathons, completed her last run three weeks before she died.
Don said: “Helen loved running and even ran the Manchester Marathon two years ago just after she was diagnosed with cancer.
“She received outstanding care at St Ann’s and we’re hoping to raise £1,500 for the charity from the walk.”
The group included neighbour Gwyn Riley, a nurse at St Ann’s, and Julie Fairclough, whose husband Steve who has raised £3,700 for the hospice from the gruelling Marathon des Sables.
Two sisters took part in the Manchester Midnight Walk for the first time in memory of their grandmother Elsie Thompson.
Elsie, from Sale, died last year aged 90 and was a patient at St Ann’s Hospice so Natalie McCullen and Caroline Davison wanted to thank the charity for caring for her.
They were joined by Elsie’s great granddaughters, Rhea Davison and Morgan Pybus.
Natalie said: “We’d heard of St Ann’s but hadn’t experienced the hospice until our nana was treated there.
“She had her family around her and the hospice cared for all of us. We wanted to take part in the walk as a way of thanking the hospice for that wonderful care.”