Thousands of flashing bunny ears can mean only one thing – St Nicholas Hospice Care’s Girls’ Night Out is upon us.
More than 2,370 women have descended on the streets of Bury St Edmunds to complete a six or 11 mile route around the town.
Some do the walk every year but many are taking part tonight for the first time, and everyone has their story to tell.
Elaine McManus’ husband, Paul, died in June last year, age 68, and she is doing the walk in his memory.
She is joined by 15 of her friends, family and colleagues – The McManus Mob – who are all wearing green tutus.
“He was quite a character and he was Irish,” explained one member of the group.
Elaine, of Haverhill, said: “We all need to do our part. He’d be very proud of me, he’d be very proud of all of us.”
Also taking part from Haverhill is Allison Massey and a host of teachers and support staff from the New Cangle CP School.
“We had a group of people do the Muddy Run last year so we decided we wanted to try something different this year, and more of us got roped in,” said Allison.
“We’ve got St Nicholas in Haverhill so we thought it was good to do something for our community,” she added.
Slimming World consultant Georgeena Butler is taking part with 34 of her members from Long Melford and Sudbury.
Georgeena, whose ladies range in age from 17 to 70 and represent a combined weight loss of around 128 stone, said: “I’ve got MS so I’ve never tackled anything like this before.”
She added: “I have members currently suffering with cancer and members of all different abilities. I’m really chuffed so many have come. I even have members that have come to support us, even though they can’t walk.”
Denise Unsworth, a specialist nurse at West Suffolk Hospital, and her 16-year-old daughter, Beth, are among those taking part this year for the first time.
The pair, from Croxton, are completing the walk in memory of Denise’s mum, Mary Vogeler, who passed away in the hospice last year.
“She’d be so proud,” said Denise.
“She’d be laughing her head off,” said Beth, looking at their matching pyjamas.
Denise, whose son finished walking the Great Wall of China today with his friends, raising around £7,000 for the hospice, said: “We were so amazed how the hospice helped us, not just my mum but us as well as a family. Even being a nurse I didn’t realise the extra mile they go and we’d like to give them plenty back to help make someone else’s final days special.”
Another ‘newbie’ is Jess Darnell, joint owner of The Coffee House on Moreton Hall.
She said: “I’ve never done it before because it always clashes with another event we do, but we’ve lost so many people to cancer and there are so many people we know currently dying of cancer that it just seems like the opportunity’s here, and I love walking as well.”
Michelle Kidd, of Bury, said: “I’ve never done it before and I live here so there’s no excuse really. I work at the hospital and thought I should.”
Alison Hall, of Bury, is usually away at this time of year but decided not to ‘keep putting it off’ and to sign up for this Girls Night Out.
“I have some good friends who are unfortunately not with us anymore and the hospice is amazing, if you ever go there you’ll see how lovely it is, it’s not a sad place,” she said.
Carla Stark, a drug worker at HMP Highpoint in Stradishall, said: “My friend’s daughter died three weeks ago at the hospice and my dad died there 11 years ago so it seemed a good time to do it.”
She is joined by her daughter, Jessica Freeman, and friend Catherine Hawkes, both of whom work at Godolphin, a thoroughbred breeding and horseracing stable in Newmarket.
Val Rogers, of Euston, was talked into taking part tonight by her friend, Heather Pynn, and said she was ‘really excited’.
“We’re buzzing, really,” said Heather, of Brandon.
“I’ve lost at least four members of my family through cancer and Val’s lost two so we support it really well, it’s a good cause,” she added.
The pair, who work at RAF Honington, are accompanied by their inflatable friend, Mr Blobby, who apparently gets around a bit and has been known to join them at parties.
Addressing the crowd before they set off from Angel Hill, hospice event organiser Jenny Baskett encouraged everyone to have fun and to not let the damp conditions spoil their night.
She said all those taking part had been asked to raise £100 in sponsorship but, if everyone raised an additional £10, tonight’s event could raise in excess of £250,000.
St Nicholas Hospice Care provides care and support to people with terminal and life-shortening illnesses throughout West Suffolk and Thetford. It is a charity and has to raise £11,000 every day through the generosity of the local community. For more details, visit www.stnicholashospicecare.org.uk