Posted by Dara Bradley, Connacht Tribune in News.

Galway Hospice celebrated its 30th year in existence this year—and fittingly, its flagship annual fundraising event on Sunday, was its biggest year yet.

More than 3,000 walkers took part in the eleventh annual Galway Hospice Memorial Walk of the Promenade in Salthill from Claddagh Hall to Blackrock and back last Sunday.

Photo via Galway Hospice on Facebook.

Photo via Galway Hospice on Facebook.

The heavy rain that was forecast didn’t materialise but participants had other natural obstacles to face: strong winds resulted in Atlantic sea waves lapping over onto the Promenade, which drenched passersby but added to the fun.

The high winds also whipped sand airborne and into the faces of walkers, making parts of the walk uncomfortable for some.

It made the 2016 Memorial Walk one not to forget, but it failed to deter participants, who ploughed on regardless, marching to celebrate the lives of lost loved ones.

“Rain was forecast to hit at 12 o’clock but it never materialised. People came back and they were sandblasted! It was like they had been walking in the Sahara Dessert,” joked Michael Craig, Galway Hospice Fundraising manager.

“It’s just a beautiful event. There are many people who have been doing it every year since it started. There are a lot of familiar faces but many, many new faces, too.”

Mr Craig said the Memorial Walk, sponsored again this year by Connacht Tribune, Galway Bay FM and Galway City Tribune, is the organisation’s single biggest fundraiser, and goes towards the €1.8 million needed to fund the service every year.

“Last year, we had 642 patients in Galway alone,” he said.

Mr. Craig explained that the event is organised in-house, and not contracted to a private management company, so that all of the funds raised are ploughed back into the Hospice.

Some six new beds were added to the Hospice in January to meet growing demand for services, he said. “The demand is only going in one direction—and that’s up.

“Only 79% of our patients are cancer patients. It used to be only cancer but we now deal with patients with many diseases, such as motor neurone and others.”

Some 60 volunteers helped out on the day with many more helping in the lead-up to Sunday.

Mary Nash, CEO of Galway Hospice, officially launched the event by asking participants to support the Hospice in its bid to move to a greenfield site in Merlin Park.

The Hospice is seeking the rezoning of land in Merlin Woods and she urged participants to support the petition in favour of the rezoning, which was included in the ‘goodie bags’.

The buzz at the beginning is palpable as walkers are chomping at the bit to get going, as the crowd surges forward after the off.

The ‘golden oldies’ classic hits that play prior to the off, lend a spirit of nostalgia to the occasion. There was drama along the road of the route also as traffic was backed up due to an accident—a car colliding with an SUV in front of Claude Toft Park. After kicking the wall at Blackrock, walkers were treated to Mars bars and bottles of water to keep them going on the return leg.

There were white t-shirts as far as the eye could see along the Promenade as thousands of people celebrated the lives of lost loved ones on the walk.Printed on the t-shirts were the names of those who have passed away in the care of the team at the Galway Hospice—this year there were some 942 new t-shirts from walkers who took part for the first time.

The personal t-shirts are a nice touch—a special way of remembering special people who were cared for in a special place, Galway Hospice. Many others wear generic Memorial Walk t-shirts because they are walking in memory of so many people, who have been helped by the Hospice.

Starting at noon from Claddagh Hall, the human chain of walkers chugged along the Prom to Blackrock and back again, as participants honoured those who are gone but not forgotten.

The walk, which is becoming more popular every year, is a practical way for family, friends and colleagues of users of the service to give something back.

The organisation held its second biggest fundraiser, a coffee morning yesterday (Thursday). For more visit Galway Hospice on Facebook.