HUNDREDS of families donned coloured wigs and costumes to support care for premature babies.

A cohort of brightly-dressed parents, with prams and children in tow, marched through Brighton and Hove yesterday in aid of the Trevor Mann baby unit at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

Mothers in pink and blue and fathers dressed as nurses led the procession along the seafront to Hove Lagoon for a picnic.

Helen Diplock, 37, of Eastbourne, joined the walk for the first time with her husband Peter, 44, daughters Sophie, three, and nine-month-old Rosie.

They took part after Rosie was born in November with Down Syndrome and heart problems.

Helen said: “The Trevor Mann staff helped us so much when Rosie was born.

“She was actually born in term - only a little early - but she had Down Syndrome.

“We were so grateful for all the care we received but we could also see all the premature babies around us they were helping.

“The staff were friendly and professional without exception.

“When we went home and Rosie still needed a tube fitted for feeding, they were really supportive.”

Peter added: “It is stressful time for any family being in there but the staff were just brilliant, you could not fault them.”

Catherine Demir, 42, of Hastings, organised the event as a way of saying thanks for the care her son Ciwan received in 2009.

Now aged eight, he weighed 1lb 9oz when he was born at 24 weeks with cerebral palsy, autism and hearing difficulties.

The event is also a way for her to remember her daughter Ezma who was born at 23 weeks in 2008 but died just an hour after being born.

Catherine said: “I remember coming out of hospital and thinking about how I could support them.

“My background is in marketing so I thought a sponsored walk would be a good idea as well as raising money to draw attention to the cause.

“Every year we get more and more people - it’s brilliant.”

Jess Barnes, of Patcham, also took part after her 14-month-old Flynn was born at 24 weeks, weighing just 1lb 8oz.

She said: “It is amazing to see so many people turn out. It has built a kind of network for anyone who has been through this type of thing. We’ve all become friends.”

Over the years the event has raised around £60,000. Yesterday’s gathering is anticipated to raise around £9,000 which is hoped to help buy a ventilation machine for the unit.

Proceeds will also be given to SERV, a charity which delivers urgent blood and breast milk to hospitals through the night.