Walk under the stars for Sue Ryder

Sue Ryder is encouraging the people of Gloucestershire to trek through the evening, taking part in its annual 10k Starlight Hike to remember loved ones and raise vital funds for the charity.

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
Take on a special challenge for Sue Ryder this October 2023, hiking through Cheltenham under stars.

Sue Ryder, the national healthcare charity which runs Gloucestershire's only in-patient palliative care unit, is inviting local people to join its Starlight Hike in Cheltenham, for an evening of celebration, remembrance and fundraising under the stars.

The annual charity event, sponsored by Capita, hopes to see families, friends and individuals from the community come together and pay tribute to someone special, as well as to raise funds for Sue Ryder's compassionate palliative care and bereavement support services.

Taking place on Saturday 21 October 2023, the walk starts at Ashley Manor Preparatory School — formerly known as St Edward's Preparatory School — in Charlton Kings and follows a 10 kilometre route around Cheltenham, with walkers setting off at 8pm and brightening up the town with their flashing headwear, glow sticks and neon face paint.

Along the way, there's the opportunity to pass through the peaceful grounds of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice and lay a decoration to honour the memory of a loved one or celebrate someone special.

Before setting off, participants will be able to enjoy live music from i-Sing choirs and Got 2 Sing and limber up with an electrifying, disco-style warm-up from Clubbercise, too.

This year marks the third year that Rebekah Bircher from Quedgeley has signed up to walk the Starlight Hike.

Joined by a team of 10 family and friends, she'll be walking in memory of her older sister, Kathryn Bircher, who spent her final days being cared for at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in 2019, before she sadly died of cancer aged 30.

Bircher said: 'Starlight Hike is an amazing occasion. There’s a good balance for me; we have fun with family and friends, and of course raise vital funds for a charity close to our heart, but also there is the opportunity to walk through Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice and remember Kat.

'Of course, being at the hospice is emotional for us, but it’s all done in such a sensitive way and gives us time to reflect. I like seeing other walkers along the route and reading the names they have pinned to their Sue Ryder t-shirts — loved ones they are walking in memory of too. It makes you feel like you are all in it together. 

'There is so much community spirit. Last year we all wore something pink as that is Kat’s favourite colour; my dad wore a pink wig and other participants would stop and chat to him. There were people outside their houses cheering us on too and at the last hike, a fire engine went passed and beeped its horn. 

'Kat would be happy and appreciative that we are taking on the Sue Ryder Starlight Hike again this year and that are continuing to raise vital funds and give back to Sue Ryder and its Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice where she felt looked after and safe. We can never repay the charity fully for everything they did for Kat, but we are trying in the best way we can to acknowledge the amazing way they cared for her and us as a family.'

In 2022, Sue Ryder provided a staggering 830,000 hours of care across the country, helping thousands of families, including many locals, from its Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in Cheltenham. 

Matt Reay, community fundraising manager at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, said: 'It’s wonderful to be able to bring our community together again this year for a special evening in celebration of loved ones, while raising funds so that Sue Ryder can continue to be there when it matters for families going through the most difficult times of their lives.

'Our Sue Ryder teams work tirelessly to ensure that our patient’s symptoms and pain are managed so that the end of people’s lives can instead be filled with friendship, family, and love in those final moments together, and by taking part in Sue Ryder Starlight Hike Cheltenham you will be helping us to provide more expert and compassionate palliative care and bereavement support to more people.'

Sara Prewett from Capita added: 'We’re extremely proud to be sponsoring the Sue Ryder Starlight Hike Cheltenham for the sixth year, a charity which has provided invaluable support to the loved ones of many of our colleagues as well as so many people in our community. This is an evening not to be missed and we hope that lots of walkers will pull on their brightest outfits for a night under the stars to celebrate the lives of loved ones as well as helping to raise vital funds for Sue Ryder’s care.'

Tickets are priced at £15 for adults — with a 20 per cent discount if booked before Sunday 10 September 2023 — and £6 for children aged six to 17-years-old, with under six-year-olds able to join the hike for free.

Sign up now via sueryder.org/starlightcheltenham.

In partnership with Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice  |  sueryder.org

More on Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice

More from Outdoors