Over 150 people got muddy for Chestnut Tree House

On Sunday 9 July, over 150 people headed just north of the Sussex-Surrey border to take on a brand new challenge, for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice, Operation: MUD. Set on one of the muddiest assault courses in the UK, the 5km route at Henfold Lakes was packed full of challenges, from start to finish, with over 60 man-made and natural obstacles.

Men and women, aged from 16 to 60, navigated the muddy obstacle course – climbing walls, clambering through tunnels and under nets, swinging on ropes and jumping into muddy bogs – all to raise money for Chestnut Tree House.

Participants ranged from individuals and groups of friends, to clubs and corporate teams. Everyone set off at 11am and Steve O’Rourke was the first to pass the finish line, after just 49 minutes. Steve, a Team Leader at Paxton Access Ltd, signed up for the event to support Chestnut Tree House, which is his company’s Charity of the Year.

Theo’s Allstars took on the muddy challenge as a team of 9 in memory of Theo Strudwick. Team member and Theo’s mum, Chantelle Strudwick, said: “We were a bit scared about taking on Operation: MUD, but excited about the challenge! Our little boy was cared for by Chestnut Tree House about three years ago and they did an amazing job, allowing us to be a family and do lots of things together before his time came to an end. We want to support them as they gave us a special time with our little star.”

Nicky Torricelli and her team, The Outdoor Addicts, signed up for the event to raise money for the charity, which currently supports her and her family.

Speaking just before joining the start line, Nicky Torricelli said: “My daughter has been going to Chestnut Tree House since it opened almost 15 years ago. She’s now 18 and they’ve supported us absolutely brilliantly through all that time. I’m part of a boot-camp group called The Outdoor Addicts and they’ve got behind me wholeheartedly to support Chestnut Tree House today. We’ve raised over £1,000 already, with more to come, and we’re looking forward to getting really muddy!”

Hugh Lowson, CEO of Chestnut Tree House, was at the start line, and spoke about the work the charity does and the importance of events like Operation: MUD to raise both funds and awareness in the local community. Once everyone set off, Hugh – armed with a super-soaker – headed out on the course to cheer people on at various muddy obstacles.

Kerry O’Neill, Events and Campaigns Fundraiser for Chestnut Tree House, said: “This is the first time we have put on Operation: MUD and we were delighted with the turn out. Over 150 people signed up for the event to raise money for us, and we also got some sign-ups on the day. Sponsorship money is still coming in, but we hope to raise around £20,000, which will cover three days of all care services provided by Chestnut Tree House.

“We would like to thank everyone who took part in our first ever Operation: MUD, as well as the supporters and volunteers who helped out. We are also extremely grateful to our digital and design sponsors, Collider and Ingenious, who really captured the spirit of the event for us.

“It was an exciting day, and everyone we spoke to said they enjoyed it. It was obviously a tough and very muddy course, but lots of people have already asked us if we’re running the event again. Watch this space!”

Chestnut Tree House provides care and support to around 300 children with life-shortening conditions and their families across East Sussex, West Sussex and South East Hampshire. The cost of providing this vital service is over £3.5 million per year, yet the hospice receives less than 7% central government funding so relies heavily on the support of the local community to continue providing vital care to local children and families.

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