Thursday, 5 December 2013

Santa doesn't always ride a sleigh...

Unbelievably my first Christmas outing was not the BritMums do I wrote about last week (despite the fact that it was still only November then!). Just the day before, I took part in a charity Santa Dash. Yes, I ran 5k dressed in a full Father Christmas suit (beard and all) – and then afterwards ate a mince pie as festive tunes played in the background. I have to say, it was a perfect way to start the season and I can only hope (and yet think it is unlikely) that the rest of my Yuletide is as virtuous!

The Thames Hospice Santa Dash with Bracknell Forest mayor Councillor Jan Angel

The tradition of Santa Dashes (and sometimes accompanying Reindeer Runs for children) is alive and well up and down the country. On any given weekend in November and December you are likely to see a sack (the best collective noun I could come up with...) of Santas pounding pavements and braving the elements in big cities like London, Liverpool, Brighton, Exeter and Glasgow as well as more low-key locations like the one I did in Swinley Forest, Bracknell. The Santa runs do all have one thing in common though – they raise much-needed funds for deserving charities through sponsorship. The one I attended was in aid of Thames Hospice, which provides treatment and support for terminally-ill adults, and those that love and care for them.

A warm welcome

If you’ve ever had a loved one die from a serious illness, you know that is can be a long and painful process – for the patient and their friends and family. My paternal Aunt died from cancer when she was in her early fifties. For many patients facing the end of their life, like she did, simple things like male and female wards and private rooms can make a difference. People want to retain their dignity and independence as far as they can, and often have concerns about how and where they will spend those last precious days. The NHS is sometimes unable to provide the type of care desired to everyone that needs it.

Santa's little helper ready for his run

Thames Hospice runs a 17-bed unit in Windsor, with consultants, doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers, and a Community Therapy Unit for day services including social and support programmes and clinics. It also offers its free-of-charge and vital services in people’s homes – and is available 365 days of the year. But expert nursing and medical care – and supporting the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients during their illness – does not come cheap. Fundraisers and donors raise the £5.5m each year to ensure this compassionate approach to palliative care can continue. It makes running for half an hour in beautiful surroundings seem very much like the easy option.

My support team

Christmas is an ideal time to think about how we might help others, and a Santa run, while helping to fundraise for a worthy cause, is a fun festive event that allows those of us in good health to make the most of it. The way I look at it, everyone’s a winner!

If you’d like to donate to Thames Hospice, my JustGiving fundraising page is still open.

My medal doubles as a tree decoration too

Have you recently taken part in a charity event? Want to get up off the Christmas couch and do something more strenuous than pull a cracker? Leave a comment and let me know which charity events are important to you.