The seventh-annual Step by Step Sleep Out Challenge, held at the EBB Stadium on Friday, has already raised nearly £10,000 to aid local homeless people.
With more than 80 people, including Aldershot MP Leo Docherty and Rushmoor Borough Council leader David Clifford, sleeping rough on the East Bank for one night – many of whom slept in their own colourful cardboard ‘beds’ – the event has now raised almost £70,000.
Participants were entertained by busking group Sgt Steppers Homeless Hearts Club Band – who next year will run and busk the entire London Marathon in aid of the charity – as well as young performers from Step by Step’s Big Music Project, in association with Aldershot arts venue the West End Centre and music charity Forward 4Wiz Trust.
All sleepers also enjoyed wood-fired pizzas, soup and a screening of Sing before the 11pm curfew and ‘lights out’ on the cold, hard terrace.
One particular fundraiser, James, had a very personal reason for wanting to support Step by Step through his Sleep Out Challenge. “This charity changed my life. Things could have gone very differently for me,” he admitted, having raised a magnificent £840. “When I was homeless at 16 years-old, Step by Step gave me the tools and support to achieve what I have to date.”
James’ initial fundraising target was £500, as the cost to support one young person for one week in emergency accommodation.
“My favourite part is where everyone’s going to sleep and the lights go out and you snuggle into your sleeping bag,” said 11 year-old Erin, taking part in her fifth Sleep Out Challenge and contributing an estimated £250 to the total and winner of the cardboard shelter competition with her own football stadium!
Four-year-old Lucy – the event’s youngest participant – and her six-year-old sister Olivia slept in a cardboard gingerbread house which took second place in the competition.
In welcoming all sleepers, Step by Step CEO, Amanda Dubarry, said: “I hope, when you’re really uncomfortable on the concrete in the middle of the night, when you’re tossing and turning and you’re thinking, ‘why on Earth did I agree to do this?’, that you remember you’re helping Step by Step to transform the lives of around 1800 young people who are really facing a tough time.”
Step by Step passionately believe in supporting local young people aged 11 to 25 who are going through hard times, including homelessness. Through their unique approach, the charity provide accommodation, personal development opportunities, training and specialist support services to empower young people to uncover and fulfil their aspirations.
Main image: Alison Jepp Photography
Aldershot Town also thank Andrew Collins for his assistance in screening Sing on our large scoreboard.