With a fresh winter chill in the air, almost 350 people donned Santa suits and reindeer antlers to bring the Christmas spirit to the centre of St Albans. An army of Father Christmases ran across the city to raise funds for Rennie Grove Hospice Care in the charity’s most festive event, the Jingle Bell Jog and Reindeer Run on Sunday.
Bright blue skies and a beaming sun brought the cheer out in everyone who stepped in to their costumes at the Waterend Barn in the heart of the city, before stepping out in to the deep freeze to bring a smile to people’s faces and raise awareness for Rennie Grove. The event is a sponsored run where young families can take part in a 1.5km Reindeer Run or a 5km Jingle Bell Jog. Rennie Grove hopes to raise £10,000 to support the hospice at home care, range of day services and family support it provides.
Stars of Snow White, this year’s pantomime at the Alban Arena, came out alongside a personal trainer from Fitness First to get everybody ready to run as they jumped, squatted, and stretched along to some of the best Christmas songs courtesy of Heart FM.
Huge numbers of local people went the extra mile to show their support for the charity this December. While everybody took part in dressing up as Santa or a reindeer, some went even further; with special fat sumo-Santa suits, penguin costumes and even going as far as to bring their dressed-up dogs with them.
Tamsin Jones and her friends Marie and Ben from Stevenage were invited to take on the Jingle Bell Jog and decided to bring the whole family, including their festive furry friends. This was their first time doing the Jingle Bell Jog, having done their own events for Rennie Grove in the past. “Ben set up a challenge day as a way of fundraising where we did loads of different things but this is our first Rennie Grove event,” Tamsin explains, as she goes on to talk about why Rennie Grove matters to her: “my dad was cared for by their nurses for about a month and a half, and they were fabulous.”
Though the canines in Christmas jumpers were drawing gasps of cutesy awe from across St Albans, one particular participant managed to take home the prize of Best Dressed. Edward Hemsley, who is a resident of the city, used a little help from his friends to get a small sized Christmas tree inside a rucksack. The tree, complete with lights, tinsel and Santa-shaped chocolates had the attention of every shopper on the streets as he raced it through his hometown.
Ed’s may have been the most ingenious of creations, but a certain young girl in a sled-shaped pram stole the most hearts at the Jingle Bell Jog. Charlie Coles and her husband James decided to take their baby Lennie out with them for the run. Not only did they dress their daughter in an adorable elf costume, they also strapped two cardboard sleigh sides to the pram to make it look that extra bit festive. Charlie set up a JustGiving page for Lennie, so she could help raise funds for Rennie Grove. “We were looking for a Santa run” explains Charlie “and we found the Jingle Bell Jog, which sounded perfect. We only found out about it on the Monday before, but we decided we wanted to make a difference this Christmas, so we moved fast and thus far Lennie has raised £410 of her £500 target, which we think she will hit. We’re very proud, though it took a long time to make the sleigh as she kept crawling in the paint!”
Newcomers to the event took to the spirit of Christmas and of Rennie Grove with heaps of excitement and energy. A corporate team from Blanco UK came in their droves from their St Albans office in to the centre to support local hospice care. Ann Marie was the person to lead the team on the chilly but bright morning, and was thrilled to be taking part in a big way: “This is the first charity event we’ve ever done as an office here at Blanco. We’re a global company, but we felt like it was important to do something for a local charity that is close to our hearts. We’ve hit 70% of our £800 fundraising target and we’re hoping to hit 100% today.” She continues to elaborate on how cancer and other life-limiting illnesses have affected the people she works with, and how Rennie Grove plays an instrumental part in helping local people. Ann Marie ran the 5km herself and was proud of her team for achieving so much on their first charity fun run: “We have about 25 people here from Blanco taking part, some have brought husbands, wives, children, so we’re all coming together to have fun and ultimately to help a good cause.”
People of all ages came to join in the festive fun, as kids and adults alike ran for Rennie Grove. Welwyn Garden City residents Andrew and Agnes Czarny said: “this is our first time running for a charity, but it’s been such a good laugh and it’s so much fun to dress up and it’s a beautiful day, the perfect kind of event for us!”
Everybody was in high spirits; from the pumped and energetic warm up, right across the route and all the way back to the finishing line, the joggers maintained cheer and warmth despite the chill in the air.
Alongside the numerous newcomers were some familiar faces. With the Jingle Bell Jog being one of Rennie Grove’s longest-standing events, lots of locals return every year to show their support. David Heal of Goffs Oak ventured in to St Albans for the fifth year running to get in his Santa outfit and run for hospice care: “My mum had breast cancer last year, but I’d been coming long before that to support Rennie Grove. I love this event, I really do, and it’s just such fun.” A keen runner, David has completed several Iron Man challenges and over a hundred half marathons, but still finds the time to tackle the occasional 5km for a charity worth his while. “Each year it’s so well marshalled, the staff are fantastic, the warm up’s great and the atmosphere is amazing. I’ve done a few Santa runs in my time and this is always the best one.”
Mayor of St Albans, Councillor Francis Leonard came down in the cold to get involved; shaking hands and chatting with the citizens of the town. She stayed right through to the end to cheer on the joggers as they paced across the line, handing out medals to each participant and congratulating them on their efforts. “It was good to see so many people having fun while supporting a very good cause. On behalf of the City and District, I congratulate all those who took part and thank everyone who has donated to Rennie Grove Hospice Care.”
Director of Fundraising & Marketing at Rennie Grove, Gillian Barnett, was overwhelmed by the support of the people from across Herts and Bucks:
“The Jingle Bell Jog and Reindeer Run is always such fun and I couldn’t be happier with how many people turned up to support Rennie Grove,” she said. “We were so blessed with the perfect weather and the atmosphere and spirit was fantastic as always. The money raised really will make a big difference to local patients and families affected by cancer and other life-limiting illness.
“In particular, we would like to thank our marshals and other volunteers; we genuinely couldn’t do this without them, and so many were so willing to give up their time for this event. We would also like to thank Collinson Hall, the Waterend Barn and Fitness First for supporting the event. We hope to see you all again for more Christmas fun in 2017!”
For more details of Rennie Grove’s active events in 2017, visit the charity’s website: www.renniegrove.org