13th May 2020 — With charities needing support more than ever at the moment, Tonbridge School was keen to be creative despite the international ‘lockdown’ and wanted their annual fundraising events to go ahead remotely. Year 9 boys held a virtual version of their annual ‘Sleepout’ event, when they make shelters and sleep rough to raise awareness of homelessness. Boys and staff rose to the occasion by building shelters in gardens and garages, on roof terraces or even inside flats, using whatever material they could find and coming together online to discuss their plans.
Shelters included cardboard boxes, trees, bins and even a children’s playhouse. Staff and families also joined in. The boys raised more than £17,500 for Kent-based charity Porchlight, beating previous school Sleepout records despite having to endure the night on their own and without their friends. This brings the total raised for Porchlight by Tonbridge School over the past nine years to £91,000.
Rachel von Hoven, Community Fundraising Manager for Porchlight, said: "These fantastic pupils have shown that the lockdown is no obstacle to helping others. Their ingenuity and generosity makes a big difference in times like these, when vulnerable people are relying on us more than ever. We're really grateful to all pupils who took part in the Sleepout."
Rupert Scarratt, the school’s Master in Charge of Charities, said: "It’s fantastic that the school has come together in this display of ‘virtual solidarity’ and that everyone has shown such imagination and enthusiasm. We’re also very grateful to our wider school community for their very generous support."
Earlier in the day, more fundraising took place with the whole school community challenged to run or walk in their own version of The CRAS, the school’s annual cross-country event, and log individual runs on a virtual running club app. All over the world, boys and their families tracked their progress in local areas, parks, gardens or even just inside houses, clocking up distances of 3.5km for the younger boys and up to 6.5km for seniors and adults.
Some had their own ideas: Chris Morgan, the school’s Director of Sport, ran 173 singles on the school’s cricket pitch, The Head, for his own 3.5k. Each runner then made a donation to support the valuable work of West Kent Mind. To date more than £7,500 has been raised for the charity, which was chosen as this year’s beneficiary by the School Prefects.
Head of School, George Adams, said: "We are aware that many people are finding these times difficult. West Kent Mind provides help for those struggling with their mental health, a cause that we as a student body are keen to lend our support to."
Stevie Rice, Chief Executive of West Kent Mind, added: "We are delighted with the amount the school has managed to raise. Students have played such an important part acknowledging the importance of good mental health, and are helping us ensure that support services and systems are in place when people need us."