Over 550 big-hearted Father Christmases took over a Birmingham park this December, raising over £23,000 for Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice.

Santas both big and small – as well as four-legged – took part in the ‘Jingle Bell Jog’, which is the charity’s annual festive fun run.

Taking place on Sunday 2 December at Birmingham Moseley Rugby Club, jolly joggers could choose to take on either the 2.5k or 5k gentle route around Billesley Common.

All fun runners were given a free Mr or Mrs Claus suit before the race and were rewarded for their efforts with a medal and tasty mince pie once they crossed the finish line.

Josephine Wardell, who lives in Hopwood, has been running the Jingle Bell Jog for three years, with the fun run quickly becoming a much-loved festive tradition. She runs in memory of her sister Letitia – or Tish for short – who was cared for at the Hospice in 2016.

Josephine said: “Every year, I look forward to taking part in the Jingle Bell Jog and this year was no different. We had such a laugh as we got dressed up in our Santa costumes and it’s amazing to see so many people come together and support this wonderful charity.

“When I first found out that Tish’s lung cancer was terminal, I was completely and utterly heartbroken. Tish was my older sister but she was also my best friend and I couldn’t imagine life without her.

“I was hesitant about Tish coming to a hospice at first but as soon as I visited Birmingham St Mary’s, I couldn’t believe how calm and peaceful it was. The nurses and doctors were just amazing – they really made Tish feel at home – and they always had time for my sister and our family.

“It was that kindness that made me want give back to the Hospice, which is why I always take part in the Jingle Bell Jog. It really does kick-start the festive season and it’s a unique way to celebrate Tish’s memories at this time of year.”

This is the fifth year that the Hospice has hosted the Jingle Bell Jog and the £23,000 raised will help provide expert care and support to people living with life-limiting illness this Christmas.

As well as the jog, there was a festive market for both runners and spectators, which was selling gifts, crafts and one-of-a-kind stocking fillers. Dr Seuss’ ‘The Grinch’ also made a special appearance, who, despite his mischievous nature, couldn’t dampen anyone’s spirit at the run.

Laura Nash, events manager at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, said: “What better way to kick-start the Christmas celebrations than by joining hundreds of other Santas for our festive fun run! I really enjoyed welcoming people to the Jingle Bell Jog this year and it was fantastic to see so many Father Christmases get dressed up and into the festive spirit.

“This Christmas Day, Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice will care for 400 people living with life-limiting illness across Birmingham and Sandwell. Vital funds raised from an event like this will go a long way in making sure that more people are able to celebrate Christmas in comfort and surrounded by the people they love. Thank you to everyone who took part or who sponsored – your generous donations will help the Hospice to continue to provide its free care and support to people when they need it most.” 

The Jingle Bell Jog kicked-off the Hospice’s ‘Care at Christmas’ campaign, which is a festive appeal that aims to boost support for the charity leading up to and over the Christmas period.

There are still ways for people to support the Hospice this Christmas, including coming along to its ‘Light up a Life’ event which celebrates the memories of loved ones, ordering one of its Christmas posters to share festive messages with colleagues and friends, arranging for an unwanted Christmas tree to be collected in January as part of the Treecycling campaign and many more.

To find out more, visit: www.careatchristmas.org