If you were asked to give up your warm bed to sleep out at the end of November – would you? In Wycombe and Marlow, nearly 200 people did! At Wycombe Homeless Connection, we have now run our annual Big Sleepout events for five consecutive years. These sleepout events help raise awareness of homelessness and give people a taste of what it is like to sleep rough whilst making a major contribution to the charity’s costs. However, unlike people who are actually sleeping rough, participants get to go back to their nice warm homes after sleeping in a cardboard box for the night.

This year, we were delighted to name the Wycombe event the Dreams Big Sleepout 2018, thanks to our sponsor – Dreams Beds. This is the first time that we have had a sponsor for this event and it enabled us to cover the costs of running the event. It means that all sponsorship funds will go directly to tackling homelessness! Thanks to the initiative by our charity ambassador and Wycombe Wanderers player, Michael Harriman, along with his wife Amy, the Dreams Big Sleepout was able to take place at Adams Park. This also meant that most of the participants had a stadium roof over their head whilst sleeping out in the cold.

From left to right: Laura Laffan (Dreams' Marketing Assistant), Russell Bell (Dreams' Head of Distribution), Sheena Dykes (WHC's Chair of Trustees), Michael Davies (WWFC's General Manager), Trevor Stroud (WWFC's Chairman)

Phil Slatter of Wycombe Wanderers’ Independent Supporters Club was among those sleeping out on the Beechdean Stand at Adams Park, and eloquently described his experience on the WWFC site

In our story here, we want to focus on all the individuals and organisations without whom the Adams Park event would not have been possible.

Prior to the day, several individuals kindly provided us with video messages supporting the event.

                                  

Michael Harriman was interviewed by his club manager, Gareth Ainsworth, about his involvement with us and the Dreams Big Sleepout 2018.

A video from Michael Harriman to help participants and their sponsors understand how the funds will help us.

MP Steve Baker talked about his previous experience of sleeping out and his involvement with WHC.

We received a big boost through a video message recorded by the actor, comedian and TV host, James Corden, in his hugely popular 'Late Late Show' studio in Los Angeles. 

A total of 150 brave people signed up for the Adams Park event, some as young as 12 years old. Participants who raised sponsorship were also given free match tickets by Wycombe Wanderers and saw the Chairboys defeat Shrewsbury that day. In between the match and the Dreams Big Sleepout, we held the Big Quiz so that participants who went to watch the game were able to have some fun before sleeping out. The Big Quiz was won by a team from WHC supporters Lucid Medical Education, based in Loudwater. Along with the highest fundraiser Jane Smith, who by then had raised a total of £1,937, the quiz winners from Lucid were taken on a “money-can’t-buy” tour behind the scenes at Adams Park, led by Adams Park General Manager, Michael Davies, and the right-back, Michael Harriman.

A trio of youngsters also raised a tidy sum for the charity. Jamie Nuttall, Ieuan Baker and Ben Senior, all aged 13, drummed up an impressive total of £1,276 between them. Ben said:

I want to do something different to raise money; it's the right thing to do.

Two hundred thermal mugs were kindly sponsored by Dreams so that we could run a more environmentally-friendly event. During the event, Dreams also provided an £800 bed, along with all bedding. We invited bids for the privilege of sleeping overnight in a comfortable bed instead of on the ground. Luckily, it was not a wet and windy night, so the bed stayed dry. We auctioned the bed itself after the event for £289, which will go towards our work in tackling homelessness.

Lisa Bond, Chief Marketing Officer of Dreams, who sponsored the event, said:

As a leading business in the local community, we are delighted to be supporting this worthwhile initiative.  Our mission as an organisation is to ensure the whole nation gets a good night's sleep and we hope our support will go some way to achieve this.

Apart from sponsoring this event, Dreams employees also joined us tackling homelessness on the night. They helped us judge both the most creative shelter and the most practical shelter, presenting prizes to the winners. Dreams employee Russell Bell, in conversation with a fellow sleepouter, realised that individuals sleeping rough must sleep very poorly as they need to be on high alert and constantly conscious of their surroundings.

A H Tripp & Son Ltd provided a supply of cardboard for sleepouters who needed extra to build their shelters.

Thanks to Creed Foodservice, who provided drinks and breakfast for the event, participants were able to have continuous supply of hot drinks throughout the night and a bite to eat before returning to their home in the morning. Their operations manager Patrick Nayler, pictured above, and his team also slept rough for the night to help us fight homelessness. 

 

WHC corporate supporter and Big Quiz winning team, Lucid Medical Education, have wonderfully supported our work recently by holding numerous events themselves. Their staff (pictured) were actively involved in the sleepout. The amount they raised will come to nearly £3,000 after funds have been matched by their generous employer!

Bucks New University, who voted WHC as their RAG charity of the year, also joined us at the Dreams Big Sleepout. Over 20 students gave up their warm beds and slept out for one night. Katherine Frei, the activities coordinator at Bucks Students’ Union said:

Wycombe Homeless Connection is an important charity to me as their focus is to improve the lives of very vulnerable people in my community. From volunteering at their night shelter I have seen the amount of compassion and energy that both employees and volunteers of WHC put into helping others. The Big Sleep Out was a fantastic fundraising event which allowed me to raise awareness of homelessness and collect £321.50 for WHC! It gave me a small insight into how hard it is to sleep out in the cold and made me think of how unsafe rough sleepers must feel.

You can read a full article on BNU student participation here.

 

BNU students Tyler Grifffiths, Irene Vojiikova, Bethany Bailey and James Risby received certificates for their participation on the morning after they slept out.

Sheena Dykes, Chair of Trustees at Wycombe Homeless Connection, said:

We have been overwhelmed by the support of so many people in this event. Many people have forsaken their warm and comfortable beds to get a taste of what it is to sleep rough. We hope that this will inspire others in the community to find out more about homelessness, and what they can do to help tackle it. The money raised will make a huge difference to the work we are able to do. We are especially grateful to Wycombe Wanderers, Dreams, our amazing volunteers, and all those who slept out.

You can watch our own brief documentary of the Dreams Big Sleepout here:

Finally, we would like to thank all the volunteers, participants and sponsors who made the event a success!