Reindeer run makes a dash through Sunderland as families back city's debut fundraiser
Dozens of Rudolphs delighted Santa and his friends as they ran their way around the city centre.
The Bridges hosted Sunderland's first ever Reindeer Dash, which brought together children and their families as they ran around two laps of the shopping centre before it opened to visitors this morning.
Dick 'N' Dom star Richard McCourt, who is appearing in the Sunderland Empire's Peter Pan panto, helped get all 147 children and their grown up companions ready after a warm up with yells of 'bogeys' before they took to the starting line to set out on the course.
The event was put together by Sunderland BID with support from the venue in aid of the Foundation of Light and the Red Sky Ball, which raises funds for the Children's Heart Unit Foundation (Chuf) at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.
Among those to take part was Beth Forster, 24, from Whitburn, who took along son Leion, six, and his cousins Ava Kelsey, five, and Evie Hammond, seven.
Student nurse Beth said: "I wanted to give something back to the charities but then also do something Christmasy for them to do together.
"They were all really excited and have been in training all weekend."
Lisa Herbert, 37, from Fulwell, took along her three-week-old boy Cole along as they watched her elder children Max, five, and Theo, three, join in.
Lisa said: "I found out about it on Facebook and though the kids would love it.
"It's been a fantastic morning out for them."
Fellow new mum Annabel Harbord, 36, from Sunderland, was joined by 10-day-old Flora, son Milo, five, daughter Poppy, three, husband Alex, 37, and Alex's mum Elaine McDonald, 68.
Annabel said: "It's a fun event before Christmas and there's been a lovely atmosphere.
"It's a great thing for the children to do."
Sergio Petrucci, of the Red Sky Ball was on hand to watch the runners take part.
Sergio, whose daughter Luna's life was saved by the Chuf unit just days before her second birthday in 2015, and is also dad to Enzo, six, said: "Sunderland BID approached us because we have got some defibrillators in the city centre, and they were looking to do something with us and the Foundation of Light.
"It's a lot of fun and it's great to see everyone making a difference, because anyone can suffer a cardiac arrest.
"We've been working alongside the heart unit on this project. We raise money across the North East, but is all starts here in Sunderland."
Sharon Appleby, head of business operations at Sunderland BID, completed the run with her family and said: "I think it's a great, fun event and it's got a real feel-good factor about it.
"It's been a good thing to to in the run up to Christmas, but also to raise money for the charities and to showcase what we have on offer here in the city centre.
"We've had some great support and especially from the SR1 Rotary, which has helped us get this off the ground."
Naomi Osborne, marketing and events co-ordinator at the Bridges, said: "It's coming up to Christmas and we thought lots of little reindeer running through the Bridges would get them excited for Santa coming and help raise some money for the Red Sky Ball and the Foundation of Light."
All the youngsters who took part in the run were invited to meet Father Christmas after the event.
The next Red Sky Ball will be held on March 8 next year at the Beacon of Light, with tickets already on sale.