The Sunday morning stroll up Mauao stepped up to an Olympian pace when hockey star Gemma McCaw lead more than 150 locals up the steep steps to the summit.

McCaw joined Waipuna Hospice chief executive Richard Thurlow to lead a remembrance walk called "In Memory Of Climb", in which people wore badges in honour of their loved ones passed.

Thurlow said his "main challenge was to keep up with Gemma ... actually I think there will be a lot of breathless people at the summit."

Waipuna Hospice Chief executive Richard Thurlow left and Olympic hockey star and former Tauranga Girls College Gemma McCaw lead a team of walkers in
Waipuna Hospice Chief executive Richard Thurlow left and Olympic hockey star and former Tauranga Girls College Gemma McCaw lead a team of walkers in "In Memory Of" walk . Photo/George Novak

Thurlow said the hospice team wanted to have "a special day to remember people and their families".

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He asked McCaw to take part in the special day "as a Tauranga local, and someone of course someone well known .. .it shows people how everyone at some point knows someone who will need palliative care, either family or friends or themselves".

Hospice staff joined the walk.

"At each staff meeting we read out names of people passed and reflect ... the people in our care are hugely important to us, and their families, and we want to recognise that today."

everyone at some point knows someone who will need palliative care, either family or friends or themselves

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Hospice, he said, provides essential services to the community and relies heavily on community support, with financial needs ever increasing as the region grows.

With each walker paying a minimum of $10 to join in, McCaw urged people to donate.

"Please donate if you can, they do a great job and my family and I are grateful for the care someone we know received."

As McCaw lead the charge, with Thurlow in tow, it was the children among the walkers who easily kept up with her nimble pace, leaving a trail of sweating walkers behind her.

And they're off. Waipuna Hospice CEO Richard Thurlow and Gemma McCaw lead the crowd of walkers up the Mount in a remembrance walk to raise funds and awareness. Photo/Sas Pearce
And they're off. Waipuna Hospice CEO Richard Thurlow and Gemma McCaw lead the crowd of walkers up the Mount in a remembrance walk to raise funds and awareness. Photo/Sas Pearce

As the walk went on McCaw would double back and chatted to people during the ascent.

Some walkers wore hospice blue and green colours, others were in team outfits, with a large contingency from Westpac bank, a group dressed in full martial arts outfits, and parents carrying babies in front and backpacks.

Team in Westpac Bank colours with Gemma McCaw walk up the Mount to raise funds for Waipuna Hospice. Photo/ Sas Pearce
Team in Westpac Bank colours with Gemma McCaw walk up the Mount to raise funds for Waipuna Hospice. Photo/ Sas Pearce

Waipuna Hospice board member Leona Smith and her husband Graeme have already raised more than $8000 in a 50 days challenge fundraiser which is taking place until March 30 in which walkers get sponsored to walk up and down the Mount 38 times.

"It's a wonderful walk, no matter how many times you do it, keeping fit and raising funds to look after those in our community, and all here in this beautiful setting."

Graeme and Leona Smith, Richard Thurlow and Gemma McCaw. Leona, a board member of Waipuna, has already raised $8000 and is planning a further fundraiser later in the year. Photo/ Sas Pearce
Graeme and Leona Smith, Richard Thurlow and Gemma McCaw. Leona, a board member of Waipuna, has already raised $8000 and is planning a further fundraiser later in the year. Photo/ Sas Pearce

Smith is planning another big fundraiser for the hospice later in the year when they will be one of the charities benefiting from a Ladies Charity Lunch which Smith is organising.

The 50-day challenge has already raised more than $60,000, said hospice fundraising manager Sasima Pearce.


How can you help?

To donate to Waipuna Hospice, click here:

Donate to Waipuna Hospice

Or contact the Waipuna Hospice office for an information pack that details options for giving:
0800 4 WAIPUNA (0800 492 478) or visit www.waipunafortomorrow.org.nz