An army of festive fundraisers put on their antlers and laced up their trainers on Sunday to kick off the Christmas cheer by joining the annual St Giles Hospice Rudolph Run.

Although the event could not go ahead at Tamworth Castle this year due to COVID-19 restrictions against travelling between areas, 348 hospice supporters were determined to raise funds for St Giles and start celebrating Christmas in style.

The fundraisers – many in fancy dress and accompanied by their four-legged friends – hit the streets in their local area or chose one of five alternative routes specially prepared by the event’s organisers around Cannock Chase, Sutton Park, Tamworth Castle, Lichfield’s Beacon Park or Walsall Arboretum.

As a result of their generosity, this year’s remote Rudolph Run has already raised more than £6,000 for St Giles, with further fundraising still coming in, which will support the hospice’s work caring for patients living with a terminal illness and their families at a time when the hospice is experiencing a big increase in demand for its care services.

Rudolph Runners (from left) Jack Hollyoake, Ciara Thomas, Tylan Hollyoake (in the car) Janie Watkins-Shore, George Hollyoake and Cookie the Sprocker.

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said: “The Rudolph Run marks the start of the festive period for so many of our supporters and in true Christmas spirit they were determined to enjoy themselves in a socially-distanced way and support St Giles come what may.

“When people started sharing their pictures with us we were delighted to see so many supporters wearing fancy dress and hope that the sight of so many Santas and elves taking a run or stroll around our local parks has spread a little extra Christmas cheer across the region at the end of a difficult year.”

With many fundraising events being postponed or cancelled throughout 2020 because of the Coronavirus crisis, hospice organisers were well prepared for the possibility that the Rudolph Run in Tamworth Castle Grounds might not be able to take place this year and made plans to run it in the local community if necessary.

Everyone who signed up for the 2020 event received a special pack containing local route maps, Rudolph Run antlers, finisher medals and certificates so they could take part in the run in their own time and in their own community if it was unable to go ahead at Tamworth Castle.

Chloe added: “It’s such a shame that we couldn’t see everyone’s costumes and hand out our finisher’s medals in person this year, but we sent them on ahead to ensure that everyone who took part received the recognition they deserve.

“Our wonderful supporters and fundraisers have been an inspiration and a lifeline to us throughout 2020 and we would like to wish every single one of them a very merry Christmas – and we hope to see them all in person in 2021.

“We would also like to say a huge thank you to Tamworth Borough Council and all our other local authorities, services and sponsors who did everything they could in challenging circumstances to ensure that the Rudolph Run could go ahead at Tamworth Castle if at all possible.

“Unfortunately Government guidance introduced after the end of lockdown restricted travel between different areas, so would only have been allowed to welcome participants from Staffordshire. With over a third of our Rudolph Runners coming from other areas and therefore not permitted to attend, we felt it wasn’t fair to go ahead at Tamworth Castle.”