As the sun set on Saturday evening women lined up in their hundreds on Angel Hill in Bury in their best nightwear for the sixth annual Girls Night Out, in aid of St Nicholas Hospice Care.
This year’s event attracted over 1500 participants whose fabulous onesies, pyjamas and flashing bunny ears were only outshone by their outstanding fundraising efforts, with more than £150,000 pledged in sponsorship.
Among those competing in the six or 11.2 mile walks were 105 members of Mildenhall Slimming World Group the Mildenhall Marvels, two women from RAF Honington, and a group of ladies raising awareness for an incredibly rare degenerative condition, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).
Georgina Bull, whose mother Annabelle suffers from the disease, said: “I want to raise awareness because not a lot of people know about it.
“We went to A&E and the doctors were not very clued up on it. A lot of people are being misdiagnosed. Most GPs say they have never met anyone with it, and you just think, this is really not well known.
“My mum may need hospice support later on. I will get her there with time and encouragement.”
The nine members of Den’s Gang were running in support of Denise Griffin, diagnosed as terminally ill a few years ago, who joined her friends on the walk.
“The care I’ve received at the hospice has been absolutely excellent,” said Denise, who helped to open the hospice’s new treatment centre in Haverhill, the Burton Centre.
“Hopefully we will raise a lot of money tonight. It is a very good cause.”
Cat Smillie and Jen Hall from RAF Honington came dressed in military uniform to raise money for their squadron charity.
“We thought, if all the guys have to come and help, we may as well do our bit,” said Jen.
“This was all organised last minute, it was literally a week ago. We’ve raised over £200 so far, but it will be more than that once we get everything counted.”
Donna Cooper, consultant for the Mildenhall Marvels, said: “We are aiming to raise £10,000, but I am pretty sure we will smash that.
“We have done something like this every year, but never to this scale.
“We have got three generations from the group in the walk today, it is a community and this is supporting a community.”
Mildenhall Marvels member Sharon Phillips said: “I had breast cancer, so it was a thing where I thought St Nicholas Hospice might have come in handy.
“My sister and I raise money for the hospice by putting on balls. Doing the walk with all these girls, it is a worthy local cause for me.”
Liz and Suella Hill were raising money with friends for their dad, Ben, who spent only a couple of days in the hospice before his death.
Suella said: “Dad always said he never wanted to go into a hospital, but he was happy at the hospice. You could see he was comfortable.
“The after-care that we got from them was absolutely brilliant.”
Liz said: “Dad became ill very quickly and got taken into the hospice quite last-minute.
“Both the nurses were so good, and they still keep in touch with us.”
Barbara Banwell was walking with her goddaughter, Annabel Deacon, who had travelled from her home in London for the event.
Barbara said: “I have received a lot of cancer treatments at the hospice, so I am quite grateful to them.
“I was never an inpatient, but the therapy sessions have been very good.”
Kevin Clements, hospice fundraising and marketing director, said: “Girls Night Out is simply incredible – every year it gets bigger and better with more women signing up to walk with us. Every step that the women take and every pound they raise makes a difference.
“The money raised at this year’s event could pay for our Orchard Centre day therapy unit for a year.”
The fund-raisers embraced the dress code, parading everything from penguin onesies to pink tutus. All participants were given bunny ears upon registration, but hospice staff and members of St John’s Ambulance could also be seen sporting the distinctive headgear.
See Friday’s Bury Free Press for a full spread of pictures and to see a selection of your snaps from the photo booth.