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11-year-old raises $700,000 for hospice by sleeping in a tent outside for 500 nights

The fundraiser was a meaningful tribute to the boy's late neighbor who gave him his tent and told him to have an adventure with it.

11-year-old raises $700,000 for hospice by sleeping in a tent outside for 500 nights
Cover Image Source: JustGiving

When Max Woosey began sleeping in a tent last year, he just wanted to raise £100 (approximately $139) for the hospice that took care of his neighbor Rick during his final days. The 11-year-old from Braunton, Devon, hoped to help out in any way he could since the North Devon Hospice was set to suffer a financial hit caused by the pandemic and a fundraiser campout seemed like the perfect way to do it. It would be a meaningful tribute to his late neighbor as just before he died, Rick — who had terminal cancer — had given Max his tent and told him to have an adventure with it. 


On March 28, 2020, Max pitched the tent outside in his garden and kickstarted his fundraiser campout that was to last for the duration of the first national lockdown. Although he'd initially imagined that it would only last a few weeks, the fundraiser took a life of its own, and last week, the youngster spent his 500th-night camping outside. Over this time period, Max raised over £556k ($769k) for the hospice. "It feels amazing to reach 500 nights," he said of the milestone, reports The Guardian. "It doesn't seem like it's been that long because so many cool things have happened since I started camping. I never ever thought that it would last this long, but I absolutely love it."


Over the course of these 500 nights, Max has braved all kinds of weather, from freezing to sweltering, thunderstorms, and even a bout of COVID-19. However, he never once left his post to take refuge indoors. His mother, Rachael Woosey, admitted that the 500 days had been life-changing for the family. "It started off as my little 10-year-old boy camping out in the garden for a few nights and hoping to raise £100. None of us can really believe what has happened," she said.


"I've said to him on numerous occasions that he doesn't have to stay outside anymore, and that he has already achieved something special, but he always says no," added Woosey, who is an accountant. She revealed that she was particularly worried one night when Max's tent blew down. Another night, she found herself in the midst of a thunderstorm Googling whether it was safe to camp out when lightning was around. The next morning, Max told her that he hadn't been worried as from counting the seconds between the thunderclaps and the lightning, he knew the storm was far enough away. "He told me: 'I knew I wasn't going to die,'" Woosey recalled.


Meanwhile, Max's father, who is a Royal Marine, said that he is very proud of his son. "I think he likes the freedom [of] sleeping in the tent. Nobody is checking exactly what time he goes to sleep. He has a bit of control." As the teen's fundraiser attracted national and international attention, he was invited to camp next to the lion's enclosure at the London zoo and in the Downing Street garden. Recalling his meeting with Boris Johnson, Max revealed that there was an awkward moment when the PM's dog, Dilyn, grabbed his cuddly toys, Spike the lemur and Heidi the lion. "I was chasing round the garden trying to catch Dilyn," he said. "That was bizarre."


Despite more than a year spent outside, Max revealed that he has no plans of sleeping indoors any time soon. "No, this is me, this is what I do now," said Max. "I don't have any intention of stopping just now. I love being outdoors and being closer to nature. If it stops being fun, I'll come in. But I can't imagine that." The adventurous youngster added that he would not be interested in staying in smart hotels even if he becomes rich and famous. "A tent will do me," he said.


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