READING'S leading homelessness prevention charity has raised a record breaking £52,000 and counting at its annual Big Sleep Out.

The charity, Launchpad, hosted their Big Sleep Out at Reading Abbey Ruins on World Homeless Day (October 10) and raised £52,000.

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The event, in its fifteenth year, is a fundraising challenge where people swap the luxury of a home and a comfortable bed, for the outdoors and a sleeping bag for the night – all to raise vital funds and help prevent homelessness in Reading.

A total of 150 people took part this year and the event exceeded the charity’s £40,000 fundraising target and doubled last year’s total (26k).

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To kick off the night, Big Sleep Out participants gathered at St Laurence’s Church in Friar Street for a packed programme of entertainment, which was compered by Launchpad’s Patron, Danyl Johnson, and attended by special guests, Lucy Zeal, High Sheriff of Berkshire, Cllr Paul Woodward, Mayor of Reading and Sir John Madejski.

The evening included a quiz and auction hosted by Reading FC ex-footballer, Ady Williams, live music by local artist, Bethia, and a hot meal cooked by local caterer, Chef Roots.

Launchpad’s Support Housing Team Leader, Luke Howarth, and CEO, Ian Caren, also gave talks about homelessness and the difference donations make to those in need.

The participants made their way to Reading Abbey Ruins at 10.00pm to bed down for the evening, before it was lights out at 11.30pm.

As forecast, heavy rain began at midnight and continued throughout the night, leaving many participants exposed to the elements in just their sleeping bags.

At 4.00am organisers made the decision to move the event back to St Laurence’s Church due to health and safety concerns for participants.

Ian Caren, Chief Executive of Launchpad, said: “Big Sleep Out gives a brief insight into some of the things you might face if you are street homeless - such as cold temperatures, an uncomfortable bed and limited sleep - while raising money for Launchpad.

"Our participants certainly had that experience.

"They slept out at the Ruins for most of the night and withstood some extremely tough conditions, and raised a record amount of money.

"They even had smiles on their faces the next morning too!

“We couldn’t be more thankful to everyone who slept out, donated and volunteered on the night - as well as our sponsor, The Oracle, and our Patrons and special guests for their support.

"Everyone deserves a clean, safe and stable place to live, and because of our community’s support and generosity, Launchpad can continue our vital work to prevent homelessness in Reading and help vulnerable people back on their feet.”

Launchpad’s next fundraising event will be a carol service, Carols by Candlelight, at Reading Minster on December 5.

There will be traditional Christmas carols, a children’s choir and special guest speakers – all to raise vital funds for Launchpad.

Tickets are available from Monday October 28 from here.