Only the most noble of causes would inspire 100 people to dress up as Santa Claus on a freezing cold morning and run around a park.
But that is what happened in Nonsuch Park on December 8 as fundraisers in the shape of runners, walkers, and others who were simply there for the mince pies and mulled wine, descended on the grounds of Nonsuch Mansion for this year’s Santa Dash.
The dashes are becoming increasingly popular as a festive way to raise money for good causes. From the Osaka Great Santa Run in Japan, to the Santa North Pole Dash in Missouri, in the US, people all over the globe are getting into the Christmas spirit for charity.
More than 100 Santa dashes are known to take place around the world to raise money for various causes.
The dash in Nonsuch Park raises money for St Raphael’s Hospice in Cheam.
The hospice relies on donations, fundraising and legacies for £3m of the £4m a year it costs to offer specialist medical and nursing care for people with cancer and other serious illnesses, as well as providing support for their families.
It has cared for hundreds of patients each year for the past 25 years, free of charge.
When the dash was first introduced in 2009 it raised about £10,000 for the hospice, and following the success, a second Santa Dash on Wimbledon Common was launched in 2011.
Santas walk, jog and even sprint the one-mile course to raise money for charity.
Organisers send out Santa costumes a few weeks before the race and competitors can keep them afterwards so they can dress up again for Christmas Day.
A sea of red and white ebbed into the cafe at the mansion as runners tried to warm their cockles before the big race.
I ran my quickest around the course, finishing in joint first place with 15-year-old Jonathan Burstow, son of MP Paul and Councillor Mary.
Mick Walker, 64, brought 10 of his family along and they all dressed up for the part.
The builder from Wallington planned to race last year, but had to pull out. He said he was happy to put his body under strain for such a wonderful cause. He said: “My mum stayed at a hospice for her final days.
“The nurses were wonderful, they made her as comfortable as she could be at that stage of her life.
“The people who work at these hospices are fantastic people, if everyone could see what they do, I’m sure everyone would donate money to the cause.
“Nurses come to patients’ houses and offer them everything they possibly can.
“We feel the stress and strain of losing a loved one, but these incredible people deal with death every day, and they get close to their patients, they are not simply patients, they see people behind that.”
Mr Walker’s nephew, Neil, had a similar story of how the hospice helped a loved one.
He said: “My mother-in-law died at the hospice but I know that she was incredibly well looked after there.
“She was there for her final two weeks. It all happened so quick. One day she was diagnosed with liver cancer, she spent two weeks in hospital, then she came home for a week before going to St Raphs.
“The people there are diamonds, they made us feel like she was getting the best possible care and they made us very much at ease in what was an incredibly distressing time.
“We were all still coping with the shock of the diagnosis when she died, it was all so quick. We came here today to offer our thanks and to raise as much money as we could for these wonderful people.”
Reporter, James Pepper ran the Santa Dash to raise money for this newspaper’s Give Your Quid campaign for St Raphael’s Hospice.
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