Ho, ho, hold the mince pies, I’ve got a hospice to help!

Oxford Mail: Father (and  Mother) Christmases warm up in Catte Street before the start of the race Father (and Mother) Christmases warm up in Catte Street before the start of the race

HUNDREDS of Santas abandoned their sleighs to run through the streets of Oxford yesterday.

A record 1,700 people put present preparations on hold to don Santa suits for a charity fundraiser.

The seventh annual Santas on the Run raises money for Helen & Douglas House children’s hospice.

Care team member at Helen & Douglas House, Jane Channon, finished an 11-hour night shift at 8am and headed straight to the run for the 9.15am start.

The 53-year-old said: “I have taken part in every one so far, this is my seventh time doing it, so I wasn’t about to miss it.

“If people didn’t raise money like this we wouldn’t have Helen & Douglas House and be able to support children and young adults in their short lives, something which is an absolute honour.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Mike, Ollie and Fi Illingworth

Among the runners were the parents and twin brother of Ben Illingworth, who died in October last year.

The nine-year-old suffered from Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare disease which stopped him breaking down substances in the body, leading to cell damage. The family used Helen & Douglas house and are still supported by them – Ben’s twin brother Ollie also has the condition.

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Mum Fi, 42, and dad Mike Illingworth, 39, from Cogges estate in Witney, jogged the run with friends while pushing 11-year-old Ollie in his wheelchair.

Mr Illingworth said: “It is such a happy place. Even in our darkest hour they helped us feel positive and upbeat.”

The Santas, and the odd reindeer, started in Catte Street at 9.15am for the two-mile circuit around University Parks.

First across the finish line was Tom Scott, from Raleigh Park Road, Botley, after 11 minutes and 59 seconds.

The dad-of-three was cheered on by children Laurence, 15, Isis, 12, and Alfred, nine. He said: “It is nice to do something like this in the centre of your own home town, and for Oxford’s hospice, which means so much to so many.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Tommy Winter, aged six, beats dad Stuart in a sprint finish

But with so many Santas, finding the real one was tricky. Six-year-old Tommy Winter from Woodeaton was on the lookout, before he was distracted by a sprint finish with dad Stuart Winter, 41.

Tommy said: “I won. But I don’t think we could spot the real Santa because there were so many.”

Last year 1,500 Santas took part, raising £70,000, but this year the council gave permission to extend the number by 200. Organisers are hoping this year’s 1,700 runners raise about £85,000 when the total is announced in January.

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