THE Walk for Wards is one of the highlights of the Stars Appeal's fundraising calendar and this year, despite the unusual circumstances, hundreds have signed up to take part.

On July 5, supporters will walk 3k, 5k or 10k to raise funds for their chosen ward or department at Salisbury District Hospital, or for the Stars Appeal’s Every Patient Fund.

This year, government guidelines mean the charity is asking walkers to Walk for Wards “Wherever You Are”, instead of walking at Wilton House.

Here are some of the people who will embrace the challenge in just over a week's time:

Grace Bowden, aged five months, from Bemerton Heath will take part with her mum Meghann, dad Ashton and brothers Casey-Joe and Cameron as they walk around Shearwater Lake.

Meghann said: "At nearly two months early our daughter Grace was born by c-section, at a tiny 1.4kg.

"Before she was born the neonatal nurses were absolutely incredible. They sat with us and explained everything that was going to happen after delivery, they answered any questions we had honestly and understandably.

Salisbury Journal: Grace Bowden in NICUGrace Bowden in NICU

"After she was born, she was taken straight to the NeoNatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where she had tubes, drips and wires everywhere.

"Seeing this on someone so tiny was terrifying but the nurses took the time to explain every tube and wire and made it a lot less scary.

"The most important thing that helped us get through her being in NICU was the Stars Appeal-funded family accommodation, which allowed me and my husband to stay overnight whenever we wanted."

Emma Fortescue from Gussage St Michael is walking with Wally Wheelbarrow and fellow collectors Keith Noble, David Chalke and Pete Creed.

They will be starting at Fifield Bavant and plan to walk 10km around Broadchalke.

She said: “I’m so thankful to Salisbury District Hospital for all they’ve done for me. It’s my way of giving back.

"I’ve had three babies there, two hand operations but, more importantly, I was successfully treated there for breast cancer in 2012/13.

"It was after this that I became involved as a patient representative on the Stars Appeal breast cancer unit campaign. Now I help out in the bookshop and I’m part of the Wally Wheelbarrow bucket collecting team.

"Our team was started by Michael Beck, who was very ill at the beginning of lockdown. We have chosen this valley as he lives there, and we aim to cheer him up by waving at him as we pass his house."

Salisbury Journal: The Stars Appeal bucket collection teamThe Stars Appeal bucket collection team

Eli Hodson and her mum Debbie Martin and their family will Walk for Wards for their fifth year in a row.

This time they will be walking from home in Warminster to head up Cley Hill and hope to walk at least 5km.

Eli said: "[My children] Blossom and Tilly were born prematurely at 29 weeks, weighing just 2lb. I had been in and out of hospital with them while I was pregnant, so it was no massive shock they arrived so prematurely.

"Blossom stayed for 10 weeks in Salisbury NICU, and Tilly also had extra help for kidney failure. The parents’ accommodation was a massive help during those weeks as we could use it as a base. The girls were under Sarum (children’s) Ward’s care for 3 years, and Tilly still sees them regularly for her kidney issues.

"We will always be so grateful for the wonderful care we received, and have vowed to take part in Walk for Wards every single year!”

Salisbury Journal: Finn Martin learned to walk after leukaemia treatment thanks to Salisbury Hospital children's unitFinn Martin learned to walk after leukaemia treatment thanks to Salisbury Hospital children's unit

Eli's mum Debbie will walk to thank the hospital for the care her son Finn has received since he was diagnosed with childhood leukaemia when he was three.

She said: "We will be walking in fancy dress, with the children as superheroes. We will take a picnic, including a bottle of wine to have a drink at the top to celebrate how lucky we truly are.”