An Essex dad stayed awake for 28 hours on the freezing streets to watch over his daughters as they slept rough so they could “realise how lucky they are”.
Lee Clark along with his two 11-year-old daughters Isabelle and Emily were out on the streets of Southchurch, Southend for more than 24 hours, which the dad described as a “draining” experience.
The rules were the family were not allowed to buy any food or drink themselves, and could only eat what other people were generous enough to buy for them.
Mr Clark, 40, has now done his annual sleep-out fundraiser for six years in a row, with his daughters joining him for the past three.
He said he wanted to ensure his daughters realise how lucky they are in their lives, and that many people are homeless for various reasons in the UK.
The family were on the streets outside the Tesco store in Southchurch Road – where Mr Clark works – from Friday afternoon (December 3) until Saturday, December 4 in the evening.
They were also joined by Mr Clark’s friend Robbie Cameron.
Mr Clark said: “We were outside for 28 hours, from 1.30pm on Friday to half five on Saturday evening, it was freezing cold, my feet were frozen. The girls were cold but they just cracked on through it.
“I thought they might ask to go home but they just carried on.
“It makes them realise from such a young age about homelessness, they are really lucky to have a home and go on holiday every year.
“Whenever they see a homeless person they always want to buy them food and go up and say hello to them.”
The family had an uncomfortable night sleeping on pieces of cardboard, with sleeping bags, layers of clothing and a tent to keep them warm – but none of them got a lot of sleep.
Mr Clark continued: “Unfortunately Isabelle only had about an hour and a half’s sleep, so she was awake for the whole time. Emily had more sleep but I was awake for them. They just love it.
“It’s really draining and I don’t feel human, I don’t feel myself. I always think about my bed. When at night it’s quiet and no one is around time slows down.
“Even if you try and lie down you’re wary; you don’t know who’s around, there’s all these different thoughts going through your head.
“We couldn’t buy anything, only members of the public could buy us something. Thankfully they did.
“A lady sent us a KFC on Friday night, a local shop sent us chips down for lunch.
“Last year someone was so concerned about us they called the police so they came to see. We had to call mum up to confirm I wasn’t homeless. The best part about that was the police donated to us.
“I see why some of them [homeless people] turn to drink or drugs to be honest. You’re trying to knock yourself out. I felt shattered, I just needed my bed. If I was constantly on the streets I would not be able to sleep.”
Mr Clark and his daughters ended up raising £3,500 from their sleep-out, having raised £2,000 last year.
Isabelle and Emily have been making waves with their fundraising efforts, being recognised at the Pride of Essex awards as “Highly Commended”, with both girls also receiving the Jack Petchey Award, which recognises young people in London and Essex.
Mr Clark has raised more than £176,000 for 30 different charities over six years, with more than 100 fundraisers.
He has also founded his own charity football team, The Farke Knight Rises, an 11-a-side team playing a game a month against other charity teams, with each player putting in £10 each time to go to a different charity. They play on various grounds in the Southend area.
He added: “We’ve been doing it since 2019 and have raised £7,000 so far. If anyone wants to help the team or get involved, please get in touch.
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“This is my daughters’ third time, and it’s my sixth time. They’ve started to get involved with my charity stuff now. They did their own sponsored silence and got £1,000 from that.
“They were Pride of Essex Highly Commended and also got the Jack Petchey award. They are my little inspirations, they keep me going.
“They don’t quite understand it; they think it’s the normal thing. They don’t realise how much they are inspiring people. At that age I wouldn’t even contemplate doing that kind of fundraiser.”
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