Boy in tent raises funds for hospice

Max Woosey, known to millions as ‘The Boy in the Tent’ has passed the 500th night of his charity camp-out, achieving his initial goal of sleeping in the garden until lockdown restrictions were over. But the big question remains: Is he ready to come inside yet?

11-year-old Max of Braunton, North Devon, shot to national and even international fame over the last year, his garden camping exploits warming the hearts of many as the world dealt with the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. His kindness and determination has inspired people from across the globe to donate to his Just Giving page, raising more than £640,000 for North Devon Hospice so far.

Max said: “It felt amazing to reach 500 nights. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long because so many cool things have happened since I started camping outside. At the beginning I never ever thought that it would last this long, but I absolutely love it.”

Max began his sponsored camp-out at the start of the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020 because he knew that the family’s favourite charity, North Devon Hospice, would need support as all fundraising activity essentially stopped overnight. Earlier in 2020, the hospice had helped care for Max’s neighbour and family friend, Rick Abbott.

“Rick was a great guy and a real adventurer. He’d been everywhere in the world!” said Max. “Before he died he gave me his tent and told me to have an adventure with it, which is exactly what I’ve done. At the start of lockdown I said I would camp outside until it was over. I didn’t realise it would last as long as it did, but I’m so happy with the money that has been raised for the hospice, and the experiences I’ve had along the way have been awesome.”

While Max had to battle with everything the British weather could throw at him, leaving him wet and cold on many a night, he has also had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences. There are the special fan mail letters he’s received from all over the world – some simply addressed to ‘The Boy in The Tent, Braunton, Devon’ – and the countless interviews with the world’s press. Then there have been the videos of support from his heroes Jonny Wilkinson and Bear Grylls, and an invitation to pitch his tent next to the lion enclosure at London Zoo and in the garden of 10 Downing Street.

However, nothing so grand was planned for his 500th night, which was much more down-to-earth. To celebrate this latest milestone, Max enjoyed a simple night of wild camping with his parents and his best friend in nearby woods.

Max’s mum, Rachael Woosey, said that the last 500 days have certainly been life-changing for the family. “It has been a whole other world. It started off as my little 10-year-old boy camping out in the garden for a few nights and hoping to raise £100 for the local hospice. None of us can really believe what has happened since. There have been so many exciting opportunities for Max along the way, like who would have thought he’d be doing a talk with Little Mix and their fans over Zoom?

We’re so proud of how he has kept his feet on the ground and taken everything in his stride, because the attention at times would have been a lot to cope with. 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. He wanted to carry on because he never lost sight of why he was doing this and he always wanted to raise more money for the hospice.”

Max’s dad, Royal Marine Mark Woosey, said no one expected this adventure to still be going 500 days later. “When the first lockdown came, most people thought we might be talking a few weeks or a few months until life would return to normal. So when Max said he would camp in the garden until the end of lockdown we thought he could probably do it. But who would have thought that lockdown would be in place in some form for a year-and-half? I appreciate that life is still not completely normal again, but for Max to have kept to his word and camped outside until restrictions were lifted is just incredible. We could not be more proud of the young man he has become.”

Having reached 500 nights, is there any sign that Max will soon be coming back to sleep in the comfort of his bedroom? “Nope! This is me, this is what I do now,” said Max. “I really enjoy camping and I don’t have any intention of stopping just now. It’s great fun and I’m not going to come inside in the middle of the summer, because I love being outdoors and being closer to nature. And I’d love it if people wanted to keep donating to North Devon Hospice on my Just Giving page too.”

Jo Dedes, Director of Care at North Devon Hospice, added:

“Max is a genuine superstar, and the difference he has made this year is just incredible. This has been a worrying time for charities. It still is, because people rely on North Devon Hospice during the most difficult times, but we have had 18 months where fundraising activities have been ground to a halt. So, to have Max step forward and raise such an incredible amount has had real impact.

It’s meant we could carry on caring without missing a beat, without having to cut any of the care we provide. Our doctors, nurses, therapists and counsellors have been able to support people who are facing a life-limiting illness, at a time when this support has been needed more than ever. We’re all so proud of Max.”

Credit: ehospice UK