STAFF and students are being urged to change a bake-off to a bark-off to raise urgently needed funds for a hospice.

Covid-19 forced the cancellation of this year’s charity bake-off staged by Durham University’s Bioscience Society.

But organisers are straining at the leash to do something to help the community and staff and up to 700 students are being encouraged to join a virtual charity dog walk on Friday, June 5.

Proceeds from the BioSoc Bark-Off will go to St Teresa’s Hospice, which needs to raise £3m a year to provide free day, in-patient and community care for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

Fundraising has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic which has forced the cancellation and postponement of a host of events and the temporary closure of its chain of charity stores.

Durham University associate professor and academic course leader for the Department of Bioscience Gillian Campling heard of the plight of the hospice from her sister Jane Bradshaw, who is chief executive of St Teresa’s.

“I not sure people appreciate that the hospice relies so heavily on public funding, its shops and various charity events,” she said. “So I thought it would be brilliant to change our bake-off to bark-off to help the hospice out.

“We are asking all our students to go for a walk with their dogs to raise sponsorship money, whether they have a pet or not. If they don’t have a dog then they could dress up a sibling and take them instead and we have asked them to send us pictures of their walks. They can sign up or donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/baxter-the-dog1.

“I’ll be taking my dog Baxter around Darlington, ending up at the hospice and my teaching and learning manager Kath Robinson-Artley was the first to sign up.”

Mrs Bradshaw said: “These are terribly tough times for everyone and charities in particular. But I have been so impressed with the ingenuity of people who have come up with some amazing ways to raise money on our behalf.

“I can’t wait to see all the pictures come in of staff and students with their dogs, not to mention the siblings in costume.”

The hospice’s annual Bark in the Park fundraiser was postponed in April, and anyone wishing to be added to the mailing list for when a new date is announced should email enquiries@darlingtonhospice.org.uk.

St Teresa’s Hospice launched an emergency appeal when the pandemic struck including a Just Giving page, https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/HugToStTs.

Members of the public can also become official ‘Friends of the Hospice’ and obtain fundraising packs offering ideas to help raise money during lockdown.