1 April 2021

Forty local people helped to raise an impressive £3,511 for YMCA East Surrey by taking part in a mammoth virtual Sleep Easy challenge on Friday 26 March to raise awareness of the thousands of young people who are made homeless each year.

With lockdown rules in place, this year’s YMCA Sleep Easy event required organisers and participants to be creative.

YMCA East Surrey joined 11 other YMCAs from Bristol to Northumberland, coming together in honour of collaboration and community spirit by swapping their usual independent events in favour of one united Sleep Easy challenge which has now raised more than £100,000 in total.

The event itself looked a little different to previous years, as COVID-19 has not just had an impact on homelessness services but on fundraising as well.

“We invited participants to stay up all night, sleep out under the stars in their own gardens or swop their beds for somewhere different,” explained Lee Fabry, Head of Housing for YMCA East Surrey.

“It was a hugely successful evening under difficult and challenging restrictions, but we found it exciting to put a fresh twist on the annual Sleep Easy event, with a unified digital element comprising of five live feeds throughout the night that enabled challengers to feel part of not our local event but also the nationwide event.”

Lee’s own daughter Amber, aged 5, was the youngest challenger to take part in the event from 7pm to 7am on Saturday morning. While Lee slept rough in a makeshift cardboard bed in his garden, Amber and her mum, Emily, made a camp on the floor of their lounge.

Marshall Lawrence, aged 8, also took part with his mother, Stacey, who is YMCA East Surrey’s Sovereign Centre PreSchool Manager. The two have raised £200 from sponsors.

Stacey said:

“Whenever we see a homeless person, Marshall insists on donating money or something for them to eat or drink. So, when I heard of the YMCA’s Sleep Easy event, I told Marshall about it and he was keen for us to join in and raise some money. We gave up our cosy beds for the night and camped, in our sleeping bags, in the living room.”

“We agreed it wasn’t the most comfortable of sleeps but we reminded ourselves that some people sadly have to do that night after night. I’m thrilled that the experience has given Marshall an awareness of the brilliant work the YMCA does.”

Eight residents of Hillbrook House, YMCA East Surrey’s housing facility in Redhill, slept rough overnight on the floors of the activity room and other common areas and were the triumphant winners of the evening’s quiz session. Another challenger made her bed in a treehouse for the night and two local councillors also took part.

Lee Fabry said:

“While Sleep Easy doesn’t aim to replicate the reality of homelessness, a night spent out in the cold or in less comfortable conditions helps us to imagine what it is like to have no safe and warm place to call home.”

“Young people on the streets are often too frightened to fall asleep because of the risks of sleeping outside. For those without a permanent home, it can be too dangerous to allow themselves to become vulnerable while sleeping. This results in sleep deprivation which can lead to other physical and mental health problems.”

The fundraising total continues to increase for this special collaborative event and the money raised will benefit YMCA East Surrey’s Employment Support Fund, helping young people to return to employment, education or training by providing such vital items of equipment as clothing or transport for interviews, work or college.

Ian Burks, Chief Executive of YMCA East Surrey, said:

“We were blown away by the generosity, support and kindness of participants and donors for this year’s Sleep Easy event and cannot thank everyone enough for taking it on and helping us to raise both awareness and funds.”

“I would personally like to thank local company, Clockwise Marketing, and community project, Infinity – Space to Grow, for their support before and during the evening. Both teams have raised well over £700 and we are immensely grateful for their involvement.”

“As a year, 2020 was more difficult and heart-breaking than anyone could ever have anticipated, but one overwhelming positive that emerged was the power of community and the effect that can have on people’s lives.

“We can now help even more vulnerable young people and support them to realise their full potential, proving that one night really can make a lifetime of difference.”

YMCA East Surrey has operated in the local area for 150 years, providing services that include sport, counselling, youth work, housing, volunteering, play and physical activity.

Find out more about other YMCA East Surrey challenge events