Moonlight Walkers do circuits of Lancaster and Morecambe

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The annual St John’s Hospice Moonlight Walk is the biggest event in the charity’s fundraising calendar. News editor Ingrid Kent writes about her personal experience of taking part in the event

It’s a balmy summer evening and I’m on my way to St John’s Hospice to do the annual Moonlight Walk.

One of the many messages to loved ones.

One of the many messages to loved ones.

Music is pumping out as I walk through the hospice gates and hundreds of women are already assembled in the grounds. They form a sea of neon pink, their flashing bunny ears lighting up the darkness.

I’m here in memory of my friend Ron McCoo who died of prostate cancer last year. I got to know Ron through my husband Mark as they were best friends. A publican by trade, Ron ran the William Mitchell pub on Westgate, The Station at Caton and latterly The Commodore at Grange-over-Sands.

Although Ron was extremely ill, he campaigned hard for better treatment of prostate cancer for all men. Ron was a lovely man and a constant inspiration to me.

Every woman taking part in the walk has their own personal reasons for doing it. I speak to women of all ages, most of whom have a message on their back, such as: “For my beautiful mother. I miss you.”

All of the messages bring a lump to my throat.

However, the main thrust of the event is celebration. Everyone is dressed up to the nines – even the dogs are wearing pink tutus, leggings and other such accoutrements.

I rush around taking photographs of the 14k walkers before the warm-up begins. The 25k walkers are already on their route, having set off at about 10.30pm.

At midnight we set off with whoops, cheers and words of support from people at the roadside. Heading out of Lancaster along Slyne Road it starts to get very dark but the marshals keep us in line.

Looking into the far distance I see a long ribbon of lights stretching back from Slyne Village. The flashing bunny ears are proving to be excellent guiding lights. The cool evening air is like a long refreshing drink so it’s easy to march along the road.

Motorists honk their support and two friendly residents come out with a banner saying ‘Well Done’. It is little things like this that keep us going.

At Slyne Village I come across my friend and work colleague Adam Lord who is one of the marshals for the night. His mum Lynne and wife Jo are also participating in the event.

We maintain a brisk pace and before long we’ve reached Bolton-le-Sands. My feet are aching but I choose to ignore this and chat to some of the women instead. I’m amazed that a few of the women are wearing flip flops and one woman even ends up walking in her bare feet! At Hest Bank railway crossing I bump into my old mates Dave Vickers and Lyndsay Brown from Morecambe Police. It’s good to see friendly faces and I have a quick joke with them before moving off.

Heading along Coastal Road, past VVV gym and onto Morecambe Promenade, we feel as if we’re at least half way there.

Then up ahead we hear screaming. On closer inspection it’s a group of women skinny dipping in a seawater pool near Bare. Not my idea of fun but we all have a laugh about it and walk on.

On Broadway and Morecambe Road I feel as if I’m on the home straight. Every time I start to think of my aching feet, I think about Ron and his courage. I’m sure others will have similar thoughts.

At Ryelands Park the pace picks up as everyone is keen to get back for a brew and a rest.

Yet more supporters cheer us on from the roadside and it helps give us that final push to the finish. I spot my friend Karen Cooper, who teaches at Heysham High, cheering us on. This gives me a huge boost.

A few minutes later we reach the finish and are given medals to mark the achievement.

I am elated and see that everyone else seems to feel the same.

It has been one of the best experiences of my life and has made me think more deeply about how important the work of the hospice is. Our sponsorship money will help the charity to continue its valuable work.

It has also given me time to reflect on Ron’s life and to think of the other friends and family members I’ve known who have benefited from the services of a hospice.

Well done to all who took part – and count me in for next year!

Donations can still be made to the hospice by calling 01524 382538.