FLASHING bunny ears, tutus and even pyjamas may not look that out of place in the middle of the night on Blackpool Promenade – but this weekend was a night out with a difference.
More than 1,000 women stayed up extra late to walk a five or 10-mile route along the Promenade, lit by the famous Illuminations, in aid of Trinity Hospice.
Organisers said the annual Illumathon was once again a successful event, with walkers aged from just eight years old right through to those in their 70s.
Family groups, friends, neighbours and work colleagues walked together, all to raise money for the Bispham-based hospice.
The theme of this year’s event was a sleep-walk, to highlight the fact that, for many parents and carers, a full night’s sleep is a rare luxury.
Many of the walkers donned brightly coloured pyjamas or ‘onesies’ to reflect the theme. There was even a pair of bananas in pyjamas.
This year was the fifth time the Illumathon had taken place, and saw women taking part from across the whole of the UK, including Bury and Scotland, as well as the Fylde coast.
Jane Molyneux, Trinity’s fundraising director, said: “To have more than 1,000 ladies taking part was amazing, and it was a fantastic atmosphere.
“The Illumathon is vital to us. Trinity faces increasing challenges to raise money, as the economic downturn continues and demand for our services grows.
“I’m grateful to every lady who turned out for us, and to everyone who contributed in any way – from the 100 volunteers who marshalled the event to the St John Ambulance, to the Army who did the cooking at the end and the crew members from HMS Triumph who patrolled the Prom.
“It was an enormous team effort.”
Singer Linda Nolan officially started the event, counting down the seconds to midnight, as well as doing the walk herself.
She was joined up on stage for a high energy warm-up beforehand by her sister Maureen.
Linda told the crowd at the start-line: “The main thing is to not give up, I did the walk last year and I was shattered! I was at the hospice last week and I just think they do such an amazing job and what you are doing tonight is wonderful.
“Let’s all be fabulous and show the men how it’s done.”
The first walkers, doing the five-mile route, were back at Sainsbury’s car park, on Red Bank Road, Bispham, by around 1.10am, with the last 10-mile walkers finishing at 4.15am.
They were met by members of the Army’s catering team at Weeton, who gave them a well-deserved sausage sandwich and cup of tea at the end.
The only official male walker was Trinity’s chief executive David Houston, who met the walkers beforehand and walked with the ladies to the half-way point.
Among those taking part were work colleagues Vivienne Ivins, from Rossall, Helen Hilton, from Hambleton and Barbara Perkins, from South Shore.
Vivienne said: “It’s the first time I’ve done it, and it was because my friends were taking part.
“The atmosphere was brilliant and it’s a great idea for a really good cause.”
Barbara said: “I did it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, so wanted to do it again.
“And the girls from work all got on-board.
“The work Trinity does is brilliant, and so many people know someone who has benefited from Trinity.”
Friends Beth Fernie, from Bispham and Sarah Roberts, from Carleton, also took part.
Beth works at Trinity and said she felt it was a good way for staff to put something back.
“It’s always so popular and there is such a nice atmosphere among those taking part.”
Sarah, a teacher, added: “I just wanted to help raise funds and help Trinity raise as much money as possible.
“Most people seem to have some connection to Trinity at some point in their lives and they do a wonderful job.”
And finishing the 10-mile route was a real achievement for Susan Wakeley, from Anchorsholme.
Susan, who has retinitis pigmentosa, which means she is losing her sight, took part in the event with her guide dog, a black-coated retriever Timmy.
Susan decided to do the walk as she lost both her parents to cancer and was recently given the devastating news her father-in-law Colin’s cancer was incurable.
She said: “It went really well, I really enjoyed it and am already planning to do it again next year.
“I managed the whole 10 miles, and even got up the next day after three hours sleep to do a Guide Dogs fundraising day.
“I’ve raised just more than £150, so I’m really pleased and really grateful to friends, family and everyone who sponsored me and to Guide Dogs for their permission to do it with Timmy.
“He did great and wore his tutu, although he was a bit tired yesterday.
“The atmosphere was brilliant and the marshalls were excellent.”