On Friday 3rd March, twenty-three amazing fundraisers from across our local communities gathered at the YMCA Cheltenham Sports Centre to help raise vital money and awareness to support people at risk of homelessness, those whom the YMCA works with to support their journey to independence.
YMCA Cheltenham’s Sleep Easy formed part of a series of events held nationally by YMCA’s across England and Wales this March, where participants raise sponsorship money by sleeping rough for one night to highlight the issue of homelessness and the work YMCAs are doing to prevent it.
Upon arriving and registering, participants collected their YMCA Cheltenham Sleep Easy 2023 T-Shirts, provided by event sponsors Monster Clothing Ltd and The ASB App, and moved into the sports hall and car park to tackle their first challenge – to construct their shelter for the night! Fundraisers are encouraged to use their creativity when building their refuges, covering them in messages highlighting issues surrounding homelessness, whilst making sure they are suitably protected enough to withstand whatever the weather has in store for them overnight.
Speeches from Head of Health & Wellbeing Rob Charsley and Head of Operations David Kinghorn explained the importance of Sleep Easy and how money raised would help YMCA Cheltenham’s work locally to support the homeless. Everyone was reminded that whilst the challenge of the night ahead would be tough, it offered just a taste of the hardships faced by those who find themselves rough sleeping night after night. With this in mind, opening prayers were led by YMCA Cheltenham Trustee Fran Tolond.
Participants and volunteers gathered to eat together after completing the construction of their shelters before heading outside into the cold, settling down in their cardboard sanctuary, their home from home for the night ahead. Whilst spirits remained high, the temperature did not, with some participants struggling to sleep on the uncomfortable, cold and hard tarmac as the temperature dropped as low as 0⁰C.
“It’s quite loud, there is a fair bit of passing traffic and the ambient light also makes it quite difficult to sleep.”
By 5:30 am, many of the Sleep Easy participants had started to rouse from their fitful slumber and gather in the reception of the sports centre, exchanging their stories about their night. Those who had remained asleep were soon awoken at 6.30 am by the smell of freshly cooked bacon and sausage rolls, provided by local company Coffee Rocks. Participants and volunteers gathered together to eat their breakfast and share experiences, reflecting that they were fortunate to soon be heading home to a comfy bed and hot shower, before hearing words of thanks and appreciation for their extraordinary effort and commitment from fellow Sleep Easy participants, YMCA Cheltenham CEO Joseph R Main, and YMCA Cheltenham Chairman of Trustees Mike Horne.
All involved then embarked on their final challenge, the ‘team tidy up,’ turning ‘cardboard city’ from the night before back into a fully functioning car park so the YMCA Sports Centre could open its doors to the community later that morning.
Through the outstanding efforts of our fundraisers and the kindness of their donors, YMCA Cheltenham Sleep Easy has raised over £8,000, which will be used to continue to provide support to our residents, helping them achieve stability in their lives and the opportunity for them to realize their independence.
We would like to give our deepest thanks to all participants and donors for giving their time, efforts and money to support YMCA Cheltenham in our mission. We would also like to thank both event sponsors for YMCA Cheltenham Sleep Easy 2023 for helping make the night possible: Monster Clothing Ltd and The ASB App.