Local people helped to raise around £3k for YMCA Thames Gateway at a local fundraising event last week that saw them sleep out for the night in Dartford’s Central Park on one of the coldest nights of the year so far.

More than 20 people took part in the event last Friday in a bid to raise money and awareness of the work of the local youth charity. Participants paid an entry fee of £10 and were sleeping on DIY cardboard beds.  Participants included the leader of Dartford Council, Councillor Jeremy Kite MBE and Lead Member, Councillor Avtar Sandhu MBE.

It was all part of a national YMCA Sleep Easy Week that saw YMCAs across the country come together over seven days to promote their work with young people.  The money raised will be used to support YMCA Thames Gateway’s services for children and young people.

The evening was launched by the Mayor of Dartford, Councillor Rosanna Currans, who also judged the Box Factor competition where participants competed for the most creative cardboard box.

Dave Ball, YMCA Thames Gateway’s Chief Executive, said: “We’re thrilled about the success and I’d like to thank everyone who took part and spent the night out with us.

“Thanks to the support of the local community we can now help even more young people than before and support them to realise their full potential. One night out can make a lifetime of difference.”

YMCA Thames Gateway has operated in the area for over 130 years.  Services include supported housing, nurseries and pre-schools, a café and meeting rooms for hire as well as charity shops across the borough.

Aleesha and her son George who is 14, both took part in the event.  Aleesha said: “I only slept out for one night and with food in my belly and access to WC facilities.  How people live like this day after day is beyond belief.

“During the night my sleeping bag zip broke.  It was freezing; the wind, rain and sleet was relentless.  The floor was damp and we couldn’t get in a good position to sleep.

“We were never going give up though; I signed up and was determined to see it through.  I finally slept from around 4 till 6 am.  Not an experience I want to do on a daily basis but I am glad we did; we met some amazing people and made a difference to the YMCA and homeless people.”

Aleesha and her son initially asked 75 friends and family to sponsor a pound each.  The response was overwhelming and on the same day they raised £400.  In total the pair have raised a staggering £1290 so far.

YMCA  will be hosting its next free Easter activity session for children aged 0 – 7 years old on 29 March.  To find out more about the charity and how you can get involved visit: www.ymcatg.org.