Santas on the Seafront: Worthing remembers popular businessman with Christmas event

Worthing Seafront was filled with Santas on Saturday as people came out in their dozens to remember the life of a popular businessman.

People of all ages — and even dogs — were invited to dress up as Santa Claus for a fun run to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease (MND), which took the life of 54-year-old Stuart Acaster last August.

His wife, Sue, said: “We had more than 50 people in outfits, including four or five dogs and a few kids as well.”

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Sue said it was an emotional day and she was ‘overwhelmed’ by the show of support from the community. 

DM21120457a.jpg. Santas on the Seafront Photo by Derek Martin Photography and Art. SUS-211112-183032008

She added: “The support and size of it went above and beyond what we thought.

“We couldn’t believe how many people supported in on the day.

“We only started advertising last week and we only had about 15 people last year with Run Academy Worthing.”

Sue said MND affects one in 300 people in the UK ‘so any of us could get it’.

DM21120424a.jpg. Santas on the Seafront. Family members from left, Simon Ball, Emma Ball, Bella Hobson 9, Melissa Day and Vanessa Maile. Photo by Derek Martin Photography and Art. SUS-211112-182952008

“Stuart was an active man,” she added. “He loved dressing up and going to events.

“He would go to town with his friends but [MND meant] he was unable to walk, talk or eat.

“There’s no cure at the moment so we need the vital funds and awareness.”

Sue said the event also helped to ‘put Worthing on the map’, whilst supporting local businesses who offered discounts to people dressed as Father Christmas. 

DM21120452a.jpg. Santas on the Seafront. Organisers, Dean Donaldson and Sue Acaster. Photo by Derek Martin Photography and Art. SUS-211112-183022008

“All in all it was great,” Sue said. “It was a late last night but well worth it.”

Stuart’s best friend, Dean Donaldson, helped Sue to organise the event, which has raised more than £1,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Dean said he couldn’t have hoped for a better day, adding: “It was brilliant. Everyone was in a really good Christmassy mood.  

“There was a really good turn-out and everyone was really happy — it’s what we all need right now.

DM21120435a.jpg. Santas on the Seafront. Simon and Clare Cleaver and Finley 10. Photo by Derek Martin Photography and Art. SUS-211112-183012008

“It was good for awareness and morale. Hopefully we can build upon that for next year’s event [on December 10].”

Dean, who is on the committee for MND Association for West Sussex South, said it was the perfect way to remember Stuart, adding: “He would have been straight out there dancing on the tables. It was his thing.

“It was really good to have all his friends there toasting him and thinking he would love this.

“It was great to remember the Stuart who loved having fun and not the man who was ill.

“It was also about benefiting the charity to help other people.”