What began as a charity walk involving about 40 people nine years ago has morphed into one of the biggest community come-togethers of the year.

The Papamoa Hills Night Walk is happening tonight and tomorrow, raising money for the Breast Cancer Support Service Tauranga. The annual event has become so popular, it is now held over two days, is often sold out days in advance and the treks up now have to be managed in "waves".

But service manager Helen Alice said the event's incredible growth had not taken away from the impact the walk could have on people taking part, or the organisation it raised money for.

"It's really different for everybody. There's a particular group, they do it every year, they have some very personal reasons why they do it and they quite deliberately take their time on the walk. It's a little bit of meditation for them to remember those people in their lives.

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"So it is different things to different people but on a clear night with the moon almost full with the city laid out before you, it really does have a magical feel."

Last year there were four waves of about 70 people climbing the hills each night.

"There's always new people who do it and those that do it, again and again, every year."

The 5-kilometre walk up the hills was originally the brainchild of Tui Hambrook and Clare Worden in 2009, raising money for Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand. These days, the local support service has taken on organising the event, which is now one of its main fundraisers of the year.

"It's hard for people to understand when they are not necessarily touched by breast cancer, that there's a difference between the Breast Cancer Foundation that focuses on research, which is still incredibly important, and us. Our focus is on women who have had breast cancer helping women with breast cancer," Alice said.

The support service covers the Bay region from Waihi Beach and Maketu and gets about 14 referrals a month. Its support workers make 220 to 270 calls to women a month.

"A lot of people fall into this nightmare after diagnosis where they have a lot of questions about what happens ... 'what's chemotherapy going to be like', 'where can I get a wig', etc."

It also offers practical help such as providing dinner deliveries.

"I'm sorry to say we are kept very busy."

Events such as the night walk were instrumental in helping the service help others, Alice said.

The details

What:

Papamoa Hills Night Walk

Who:

Anyone who would like to help support local women diagnosed with breast cancer

Where:

Entry at the Papamoa Hills car park, Poplar Lane.

Why:

To raise money for Breast Cancer Support Service Tauranga

What else you need to know:

Tickets are now unavailable. More information is available on the night walk's Facebook page or the support service's website.