Record numbers turn out for charity 'sleep out' at city football ground
PUBLISHED: 08:37 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:16 15 November 2019
More than 200 people bedded down for a night under the stars - and rain clouds - in Norwich to raise money and awareness for the city's homeless.
The Benjamin Foundation's Big Sleep Out returned to Carrow Road car park on Thursday night, where fundraisers tucked themselves into sleeping bags for a chilly night in the open.
Now in its fifth year, the event had a record attendance of around 220 - up 50pc on 2018 - and the donations total has already surpassed the £50,000 mark with more money still to come in.
Ex-Norwich City player Dean Ashton, who joined fellow former Canaries Darren Huckerby, Adam Drury, Grant Holt and Jeremy Goss in the Sleep Out, said: "What got me was not necessarily how cold it was but how incredibly uncomfortable it is to just sleep on Tarmac, so I really struggled with that.
"We were here to experience even a fraction of what it is like for someone who genuinely has to sleep rough.
"To think that I would ever have to do it again is a scary thought so it brings it home how important the money that we raise in these sorts of events is."
Naomi Newell, who was "sleeping out" for the second time, was one of 18 staff from law firm Birketts who took part.
She said: "Every time I turned over I woke up because the floor is so hard. I am a bit sore this morning.
"The whole event is always so well organised and the volunteers were great. We are fortunate to have tea and biscuits all the time. It is not the real thing, but it is a fair representation to see what we can do with the fundraising."
Neil Dobson said: "Sleeping on cardboard makes you appreciate what these people are going through. It is humbling and makes you appreciate what you have. I am really glad that I did it."
Denise Traube from Steeles Law in Norwich took part with five colleagues.
She said: "The biggest thing for me is the fact that yes we have done it and yes it is an experience, but I am now going to go home to walk the dogs and have a shower. If you are homeless you are probably trying to find out where you can get some food from or if it is raining how you are going to stay warm and dry."
Chris Elliott, marketing and fundraising manager at the Benjamin Foundation, said: "The 220 people who took part have been gaining sponsorship for their challenge and the money they raise will give local young people who haven't had the best start in life the opportunity to get back on track and shape a better future."