Sue Ryder, the national healthcare charity which runs Gloucestershire's only in-patient palliative care unit, is inviting enthusiastic walkers from the county 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 local community come together and pay tribute to lost loved ones, as well as to raise funds for Sue Ryder's compassionate palliative care and bereavement support services.
Taking place on Saturday 15 October 2022, the walk starts at St Edward's Preparatory School in Charlton Kings and follows a 10 kilometre route around Cheltenham, with walkers setting off at 9pm 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 star to honour the memory of a loved one or celebrate someone special.
Before setting off, participants will be able to enjoy live music from award-winning choirs, Got 2 Sing and the Rock Choir, and limber up with a fun, disco-style warm-up from Clubbercise, too.
Sophia Haq, who lives in Gloucester, laced up her trainers to take on the Starlight Hike in 2020.
She said: 'I like doing voluntary work and I regularly give to international charities, cancer charities and Muslim charities, but I really feel it is important to support charities that are local too.
'When I heard about Starlight Hike in support of our local hospice, I thought it was something I could do as it’s a hike not a run and the idea of running really freaks me out! The event looked something fun to do in the evening and I thought there would be great camaraderie coming together with others.'
When she sat down to compete her entry online, however, the event took on a much more personal meaning.
'I haven’t had anyone cared for by Sue Ryder,
but as I read about the event I saw people were encouraged to walk in memory of
loved ones to help them grieve, and that’s when it struck me. I had recently lost
my dad and I was still going through the grieving process myself. It was then I
knew I wanted to do this in memory of Dad — and it is such a wonderful idea,' she continued.
Walking in memory of her beloved dad, Ehsan ul Haq, Sophia held him in her heart throughout the 10k hike. She said: 'I think Dad would be touched I walked for him, but he was such a practical man I think he would also say 'that's really good exercise for you', before asking me what time I would be home!
'I have always been a
Muslim. I pray four times a day and during our last prayer at night I look
towards heaven and see the stars. I know Dad is up there with loved ones. It is
my belief that I will meet him again one day — and when I walked the Starlight Hike, I looked up to the stars and thought of him.'
In 2021, 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: 'Our specialist teams make all the difference at the end of someone’s life or following a bereavement, and by taking part in Sue Ryder Starlight Hike Cheltenham you’ll be helping Sue Ryder to provide even more expert and compassionate care.
'The 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.'
are priced at £15 for adults — with early bird tickets costing £12, if booked before Sunday 11 September 2022 — and £6 for children aged six to 12-years-old, with under
six-year-olds able to join the hike for free.
There's a family ticket option for families of four, which costs £48, and tickets for a team of six cost £72.
Sue Ryder encourages keen walkers to sign up in advance, but 'on the day' entry
will also be available from 7pm.