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Star Walk: ‘Kitty’s Girls’ gear up for fifth night-time stroll with Saint Francis Hospice

PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 June 2017

Regular Star Walkers Michelle Johnson, Pauline Emberson, Kathy Barnes, Amanda Pitchford and Chloe Johnson are taking on the night-time stroll again this year

Regular Star Walkers Michelle Johnson, Pauline Emberson, Kathy Barnes, Amanda Pitchford and Chloe Johnson are taking on the night-time stroll again this year

Archant

The phrase ‘keeping it in the family’ applies all too well to Michelle Johnson’s fundraising efforts.

Michelle Johnson's nan Kathleen Allen was cared for by Saint Francis Hospice before she died of cancerMichelle Johnson's nan Kathleen Allen was cared for by Saint Francis Hospice before she died of cancer

The 41-year-old has tackled Saint Francis Hospice’s Star Walk four times with her daughter, sister, mum and aunt in tow, and the self-dubbed Kitty’s Girls are going to do it all over again this summer.

The team were inspired to start the tradition following the death in 2011 of Michelle’s nan Kathleen Allen, who spent her final five days at the Havering-atte-Bower hospice.

“The hospice was wonderful to my nan and you cannot put a price on that,” said Michelle, of Chelmsford, Essex.

“Everyone gave us so much time, attention and listened to us, which is what you need when you are going through something as traumatic as that.

Amanda, Chloe, Pauline, Kathy and Michelle with Brian Bennett, known as Lyrickal, who was a finalist on The Voice in 2016Amanda, Chloe, Pauline, Kathy and Michelle with Brian Bennett, known as Lyrickal, who was a finalist on The Voice in 2016

“Taking part in the Star Walk is something we can do to give something back – it is such an uplifting walk and we love the entertainment.”

Making up the Kitty’s Girls five are Michelle’s daughter Chloe, 14, sister Amanda Pitchford, 28, mum Pauline Emberson, 60, and aunt Kathy Barnes, 63.

Michelle, who lived with her nan for many years, has spoken of how the hospice worked hard to make sure Kathleen, who had cancer, felt as comfortable as possible. She was able to use her own duvet and pillow, and had photos of her family, Arsenal paraphernalia and a bottle of her favourite San Miguel beer with her.

Her loved ones were also able to sit and watch television with her.

“There was no going back, but we knew that the last few days would be lovely,” said Michelle, who also benefitted from the support of the charity’s counselling team.

“It was a massive loss to me when she died. I had counselling for five months.

“It was priceless to have someone to sit and talk to and make you feel you are being listened to. The hospice became a home from home.”

The 10km Star Walk kicks off at 9pm on July 8, from Romford’s Market Place. Entry is £12 for adults and £8 for under-16s. Call 01708 771427 or visit sfh.org.uk for more information.

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