FAMILIES came together for a poignant lake-side ceremony to remember loved ones and support a North-East hospice.

The annual “Floating Thoughts” event takes place at Hardwick Park, near Sedgefield, with illuminated lanterns bearing a message dedicated to someone who has passed away.

As dusk fell on Saturday, around 150 environmentally-friendly lanterns were pulled across the lake on white rafts while members of the Sage Gateshead Chamber Choir performed from a nearby bridge.

Those supporting the event, in aid of Butterwick Hospice, included six-year-old Stanley Goddard-Gernon, of Ferryhill, whose father died last October after suffering from a brain tumour.

Neil Gernon was 51 when he died and Stanley wrote a message for his lantern, saying: “To Daddy, miss you and love you always.”

Stanley was accompanied by his mother, Tracey Goddard, who said: “Stanley had heard about the event from a cousin and he asked me if we could come and it just seemed a lovely thing to do.”

Stanley and Tracey have both benefited from counselling services provided by the Butterwick.

Tracey said: “Stanley talks about his Daddy a lot and the counselling was really important to him. It has also helped me much more than I thought because it makes you appreciate that it’s natural to feel the way you do.”

Neil and Tracey had been told they wouldn’t be able to have a child because he had been through so much chemotherapy, but Stanley came along as a surprise.

Jim Gorman, of Trimdon, also took part in the event in memory of his wife Angela, who died three years ago from pancreatic cancer.

Shortly before she died aged 70, Angela and Jim had celebrated their golden wedding at Hardwick Hall Hotel, which overlooks the lake. They were married in 1966 and had also marked their silver wedding at the hotel 25 years earlier.

Angela, who worked as practice manager at the doctors’ surgery in Sedgefield, had also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

“It happened so quickly but I just feel close to her when I’m here, so it seemed a nice thing to do to remember her,” said Jim, who was accompanied by his grand-daughter Emily.

When Angela died, Emily bought her Grandad a Red Setter puppy, called Holly, and Jim regularly walks the dog around the lake at Hardwick Park.

Event organiser Milly Toner said: “It was a really poignant occasion and a lovely way for people to remember their loved ones while supporting the hospice at the same time.”