DOGS and their owners are beginning to line up to pound the pavements for a worthy cause.

The first entries have registered for the virtual Bark in the Park event, which is being staged this year following the cancellation of the popular mass participation annual fundraiser.

Last year the dog walk in Darlington’s South Park raised £10,000 for organisers St Teresa’s Hospice.

But like a host of other regular fundraisers Bark in the Park fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the financial plight of the much-loved charity.

St Teresa’s Hospice needs to raise over £3m a year to provide free day, in-patient and community care, as well as family support and bereavement counselling, for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

So to try and claw some of the shortfall back its Income Generation Team has organised a virtual replacement event.

One of the first to sign up was Sid and his owners Jacquie and Les Hauxwell. Jacquie has been a seasonal fundraiser and regularly volunteers for the hospice. Les also volunteers and has completed the Great North Run for the hospice.

Sid had already signed up to Bark in the Park 2020 but will now complete the virtual event’s Landmarks Challenge.

Jacquie said: “I appreciate how difficult fundraising must be at the moment because of Covid-19. I will continue supporting St Teresa’s because I know how hard end of life care is – I’ve done it – and what a difference it makes.”

St Teresa’s Hospice chief executive Jane Bradshaw said: “Our nursing and counselling teams have continued to work tirelessly to give care and support to terminally ill people and their families. We need help more than ever because of the ongoing impact of COVID-19.”

To take part in virtual Bark in the Park owners need to register at www.darlingtonhospice.org.uk/virtual-bark-in-the-park/.

They will then be sent a sponsorship kit and some challenge ideas and have until Sunday, September 6, to set and complete a sponsorship target.

Owners and their pets can choose to walk the Bark in the Park route at South Park, or complete a Darlington Landmarks challenge taking in Five Arches bridge,

Joseph Pease statue, Darlington Indoor Market, the Hippodrome, the Brick Train, The Northern Echo Arena, Broken Scar, South Park Pavilion, West Park Sculpture Park, The Denes, or set a personal target, such as walking a certain distance.

Entry is £6 per dog and a suggested sponsorship target is £15 per pet. All dogs will receive a goody bag from sponsors Jollyes The Pet Superstore Darlington and an exclusive doggy bandana.

Anyone who had previously signed up to take part in Bark in the Park 2020 will have their place transferred to the virtual event. They should contact the hospice on (01325) 254321 or events@darlingtonhospice.org.uk if they are taking part, so they can be sent a sponsorship pack and goody bag.

Entrants can also share their walk experiences via social media, such as by Strava reports, featuring photos from various landmarks and locations, tagging in the hospice on Facebook and Twitter.

Donations to the hospice’s emergency appeal can also still be made at www.justgiving.com/campaign/hugtostts.