Hundreds of walkers donned their waterproofs and wellies as they braved wet weather to support a hospice at a charity event in Walsall.
More than 960 supporters of Acorns Children’s Hospice were all smiles despite the downpours at the charity’s first Lantern Walk at Walsall Arboretum.
They trekked 5k and 12k routes holding battery-powered lanterns, with many wearing waterlogged elaborate fancy dress costumes.
Together they pledged a total of around £35,000 for the charity, which provides care and support for more than 640 children across the region.
Organisers hailed the day a great success and thanked everyone who turned out to take part.
Laura Heathfield, events manager at Acorns, said: “It’s been wonderful to see so many people turn out to show their support, either by walking, sponsoring or volunteering, particularly given the wet weather.
“We rely on fundraising for the majority of the £8 million-plus needed to run our services every year and if it wasn’t for people getting behind events such as the Lantern Walk we simply wouldn’t to be able to raise those vital funds.”
Among those who gave up their time for the cause was nursery nurse Amber McHugh, aged 21, who travelled from Birmingham with friends to take part.
She said: “We do Acorns’ Midnight Walk every year. We work with children so we like to do things to help them outside of work, too. We’ve raised about £200 between us.”
Her colleague Hayley Downing, aged 27, whose Buzz Lightyear costume was provided by a parent at work, added: “I’m just feeling really excited. To infinity, and beyond!”
Walking behind with friends, family and a colleague’s 18-month-old baby was Charlotte Holmes, aged 40, also from Birmingham, who works as an accountant and volunteers with the charity.
She said: “My friend’s child wanted to walk and was in and out of the pushchair. We finished the 12km route in around two hours.
“It was all good fun apart from the rain – we got soaking wet.”
Free Radio drive time presenters Jo and Sparky warmed up the crowd ahead of the walk with music and dancing.
After crossing the finish line, everyone who took part in Saturday’s event was awarded a medal marking the charity’s 25th anniversary year, before the event climaxed with an evening laser show from the bandstand.
David Strudley, the charity’s chief executive, said he was ‘delighted’ with the day’s outcome.
He said: “It’s absolutely outstanding – we’ve had probably three times the number of entrants that we had hoped for. The atmosphere is electric.
“It is just typical of the way people support the things we do and we can’t thank them enough.”
The charity has to spend £750 for every bed it provides and needs to raise around £8.5 million annually, only around a third of which is provided by government and local authorities.
Mr Strudley said: “Unfortunately, so many of the children are very poorly, which means we need to be able to provide every one of them with the care they need. It is a very costly business.
“The rest of the money comes from wonderful people who come to events like this.
“Two years ago we set a target to raise enough to cover 25,000 bed-nights and we reached that last month.
“During our 25th anniversary year people have been doing non-stop events all through the year. It is just wonderful.”