Lake lit up by lights in family tributes

Portsmouth coastguard called to reports of a body near Chichester

A lake was turned into a shining memorial in a moving Christmas tribute to lost loved ones.

More than 1,000 people turned out for the FORT Cancer Charity's annual Lake of Lights event at Canoe Lake in Southsea last night.

Braving the freezing temperatures, families, friends, adults and children gathered around the lake to watch dozens of light sticks floating in memory of those who have died from cancer.

Visitors added their lights and messages to dozens of floating rafts in return for a donation towards the Portsmouth-based charity.

Michelle Edmonds, fundraising manager for FORT, said: 'Every year this is a hugely moving event.

'It can be hard to look out at the lake and realise every one of those lights is someone who has died, or is battling cancer right now.

'Especially at this time of year it is good for people to be able to come together and remember.'

Some people turned out because they themselves were undergoing treatment for cancer.

Brenda Haly, 73, of Castle Grove, in Portchester, said it was an emotional event as she was currently having chemotherapy.

'It's very tranquil but also really sad,' she said. 'I'm a little tearful because I'm going through it at the moment, and I know how hard it is.'

All money raised from donations will go towards FORT's 130,000 appeal for a Papillon 50 - a machine which treats rectal cancer and means the patient does not have to have a colostomy bag.

The machine will be used at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.

'Anything we can do to help a charity like this is worth it'

Keith Brown, 52, is currently staying in Craneswater Avenue, Southsea, and came to the event to remember his wife's mum and dad, Bill and Jean McLintock, who both died of cancer.

He said: 'We lost Jean to cancer nine years ago, but it's only been five months since Bill died. 'Both were deeply devout Catholics and, surprisingly, their illnesses and pain only made them ever stronger in their faith. It was very upsetting for us and anything that we can do to help a charity like this is certainly worth it.

'Cancer causes so much suffering, and it is important to have events like this where we can remember those we've lost.

'It's peaceful and gives people the chance to reflect on the people they knew.

'The lake looks lovely and I've taken a picture to show my wife when I get back home.'

'This is just a lovely event'

Sandra Donn, 65, of Staplers Reach in Gosport, and her daughter Louise Donn, 30, of Finisterre Close, in Stubbington, came to remember husband and father Doug, pictured, who was 68 when he died of cancer.

Sandra said: 'We lost my husband Doug to colon cancer, so we want to support FORT and help all the other people this awful illness is affecting this Christmas.

'This is just a lovely event because it brings people together and lets them realise they're not alone. Seeing all the lights out on the lake is beautiful.'

Louise added: 'I find things like this tend to make me feel very emotional.

'This gives us a chance to remember the people we loved.'

'It's a good place to reflect'

Clare Harrison, 33, of Kingsley Road, in Southsea, came to the lake to remember her father Ron, who died of cancer last year aged 60.

She said: 'It's really tranquil here so it's a good place to reflect and gather your thoughts.

'My dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, and he fought really hard until last July when he finally passed away.

'I lived with him for most of the time while he was fighting it, and he was incredibly strong and positive the whole time.

'It was three days after my daughter's birthday and he loved her so much. He was a wonderful person and my best friend.

'Anything FORT can do to help other people with cancer is worth supporting them for.'