Inspired to sleep outdoors after getting a teepee for his birthday, last July Billy set out to sleep in a tent in his garden for 100 nights to raise £150 for the charity.
Four seasons, five tents and one lawn later, he has smashed his target and raised over £1,000 after spending a whole year outdoors.
To celebrate his milestone achievement, Emmaus UK sat down with Billy and his mum, Sarah, to ask about his experience.
What’s it been like living in a tent for a whole year? Do you miss your bed?
It is very similar to sleeping normally, but with lots more sounds like birds at sunrise and cars at all times. Where we live, we get quite a lot of emergency vehicles passing.
I don’t miss my bed at all! My mum is surprised (not really) by how messy my bedroom is still when I sleep outside.
What made you want to do the challenge and raise money for Emmaus?
I had a teepee bought for my birthday and my mum complained that I hadn’t used it. When it was good weather, I started to camp out and decided to stay out!
We then went camping on holiday and it started from there. I’m stubborn and my parents say I’m quite resilient, so to be able to combine something that I really enjoy with help others is a good challenge for me.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had so far?
The biggest challenge has been weather – the rain makes it difficult to sleep, but most challenging probably was the snow caving in my little porch area.
That, or when my first teepee got mouldy, and my mum had to drive across to the other side of Leeds with 20 minutes until closing time to buy a new one. Then we had to put it up in the heavy rain.
I have slept in five different tents now over the year and the grass is no more!
What would you like the money raised to go towards at Emmaus?
I just hope that the money that I’ve raised goes towards helping people, hopefully in and around Leeds.
Do you plan to keep going with the challenge?
I would love to keep on doing what I am doing, so that more is going to help others.
Ultimately, I would like to be longer than the boy in the tent, but that’s a long time to go!
Sarah, how proud are you of Billy and everything he’s achieved?
We are really impressed with Billy’s tenacity in staying outside for so long, even when he has been unwell or had to get up really early.
We are really blown away with how much he has raised with really very little effort from us to push it.
So, a huge thank you to friends, family & colleagues who have supported him so far.
Did you expect Billy to keep going with the challenge for this long?
We aren’t surprised that he has stayed out for so long, but that he’s only ever gone out to his tent in his PJs and sliders with a single duvet and sleeping bag is remarkable!
He insisted on taking his brother’s Duke of Edinburgh Award tent when visiting his grandparents in South Wales, so that he kept up his camping out streak, likewise when going to a friends’ for a sleepover.
When he started his adventure, he wasn’t aware of ‘the boy in the tent’ so now his is that’s appealed to his competitive streak!
Yuen Chu, Fundraising Officer at Emmaus UK, said: “Billy has not only exceeded both his original fundraising target of £150, he’s gone above and beyond in this sleep out challenge to raise awareness of homelessness.
“It was fantastic to still have donations coming in as he carried on after his first 100 days, which then turned into a full year. This is a brilliant achievement. He’s done himself proud.
“Fundraisers like Billy are crucial to communities like Emmaus Leeds and will help the team improve the support they can offer to those experiencing homelessness.”