Nineteen ‘Sahara trekkers’ will be putting their best feet forward to tackle personal and fundraising challenges for St John’s Hospice in Lancaster.

After nine months of fundraising and fitness training, the team boarded the coach at the hospice on March 8 bound for Heathrow Airport and their flight to Casablanca and then on Ouarzazate.

The Sahara Trek is the St John’s third overseas trek and has become a key contributor to the hospice’s challenging fundraising targets.

“The Sahara team has worked so hard fundraising over recent months and we are so proud of them all for supporting the work of the hospice. So far they already have raised more than £44,000 for St John’s Hospice,” said director of income generation Catherine Butterworth.

Many of the trekkers have very personal reasons for doing something for the hospice. Several have been long- time supporters. Others have no prior connection to St John’s - just a desire to take up the challenge - but have become passionate supporters along the way.

Five trekkers are employees at St John’s, four of which work on the in-patient unit.

“I wanted to do my bit towards the fundraising for the hospice as I see day in day out how important it is the hospice continues to support the local community. I am proud to be part of Team Sahara and can’t wait to get trekking” said Lucy O’Connor, head of in-patient services.

One of the trekkers, Shirley Holland, has been on all of the previous treks organised by St John’s – she has walked The Great Wall of China, Climbed to Machu Picchu in Peru & is now headed for the awe-inspiring Sahara Desert.

Sally Richardson is a first timer and is taking up this challenge as a solo trekker “I feel a bit stressed and scared. I’m doing this for my dad, who died at St John’s.”

“We wish to thank each and every one of these wonderful people from the bottom of our hearts,” added Sue McGraw, CEO of St John’s, who will be joining the expedition and raising her own money for the trek.

“Having joined supporters on our inaugural trek to China in 2016, I know first-hand what a special trip this will be and, more importantly, what an impact the teams fundraising will have for the patients and families at St John’s”

Trekkers have run coffee mornings and fashion shows, baked cakes and then sold them, stood in stores and streets holding collection tins in all weathers, organised party nights and afternoon teas, approached businesses to ask for prizes for raffles and asked family, friends, and work colleagues to sponsor them.

On top of that they have also spent many hours training to ensure they can cope with the demands of walking up rolling sand dunes in scorching heat.

“They are very special people, and along with everyone in our local community who chooses to give of their time, or money, to support St John’s we are sincerely and deeply grateful,” added Sue.

“If not for people like our Sahara Trekkers, and indeed all St John’s supporters and volunteers, we would not be here. It is as simple as that.”

It costs more than £5 million a year to keep the hospice doors open and to continue to care for anyone with a life shortening illness in the north Lancashire, South Lakes, and North Yorkshire area.

St John’s only receives around one third of this from NHS and Government funding, which means the hospice has to raise more than £9,000 per day, every day, from events like the Sahara Trek.

To donate to The Sahara Trek fund go to