For the first time in three years, The Boy in the Tent will be sleeping in his bed.
When Max Woosey first pitched a tent in the garden of his house in Devon, UK, he was 10 years old and had just lost a friend. He hasn’t slept a night indoors since.
Max’s fundraising quest began in March 2020. Through a years-long campaign, he became known as "The Boy in the Tent" and collected more than £700,000 for North Devon Hospice, the local facility that took care of his late friend.
Thanks to the charitable efforts he's demonstrated in the past three years, Max has officially broken the record for most money raised by camping (individual).
In 2020, Max's neighbour Rick Abbot was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The Woosey family supported Rick during the last months of his life, thus becoming aware of the care provided to him by North Devon Hospice. Sadly, Rick's condition continued to worsen and, despite the collective efforts to improve his fading health, he passed away in February 2020.
“Before my neighbour died of cancer, he gave me a tent and told me to ‘have an adventure’," Max said.
With those encouraging words, Rick also left Max his beloved tent as a token of their friendship.
“The North Devon Hospice took such good care of him I wanted to do something to say thank you to them,” says Max.
North Devon Hospice has joined the celebrations, praising the young man’s commitment and staggering fundraising results at the dawn of his third year of camping.
“The Woosey family saw the level of care and support we were able to give Rick, to help him stay at home where he wanted to be, and to live his final days in comfort without pain. This sowed the seed of Max’s amazing adventure," Stephen Roberts, Chief Executive of North Devon Hospice, told us.
“When Max had been camping in his garden for just a few weeks, it was already an amazing thing for a 10-year-old to have done for his local hospice."
Looking back, however, they could have never imagined the success Max's campaign reached in such a short amount of time – and the immense benefits that it would bring to his local community.
Racking up astonishing numbers on social platforms and quickly gaining nationwide support, he proved that a brave gesture can make all the difference.
“His commitment and selflessness captured the hearts of people around the world, leading to a staggering £700,000 being raised for North Devon Hospice.” - Stephen Roberts, North Devon Hospice
Such a sum allowed the hospice to provide for 15 hospice community nurses for an entire year. During a year, such trained personnel would be able to support around 500 patients in their own homes, helping them face the impact of an illness like cancer.
Max’s efforts have raised vital funds during a time such as the pandemic, which has imposed never-seen-before difficulties upon patients and charities alike.
He also shone a vital spotlight on the importance of hospice care, as Roberts highlighted.
“Often, it’s only when people see our care first-hand that they truly understand how much it means."
“When lockdown came I asked my parents if I could camp out in Rick’s tent and my parents said no," Max explains, looking back at the beginning of his life-changing quest.
"On 28 March 2020, they finally said yes. Three years on I’m still out there.”
Ever since that very first camp-out Max has spent every single night in his tent.
As Max grew from a boy to a young man and his quest turned into a media sensation, he had the chance to embark in many one-of-a-kind camping adventures.
For example, he had the chance to pitch his tent at the London Zoo (which is officially the first zoo with a children's zoo in the world) and become a one-night Zookeeper for the "Boycott Your Bed" campaign. Soon after, Max also camped at the garden of the iconic No.10 Downing Street, on the occasion of a 2021 charity event for Action for Children.
On that occasion, he shared a cuppa with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The two were joined by Johnson’s dog, Dilyn.
Above all, however, Max’s favourite experience was camping at Twickenham Rugby Grounds.
“It was incredible,” he remembers.
Over the years, Max also had the chance to refine his camping skills.
Some things changed and improved, especially in terms of comfort, tech equipment and set-up, but the enthusiasm remained the same as the very first night.
“Now, in winter, I use a pop-up tent on the patio so I don’t have to move it around every few days. It’s not as comfortable but it saves everything from getting wet and muddy and doesn’t ruin the lawn," Max explains.
“I have to go through about 15 tents as they only last about 10 weeks."
When he looks back and remembers the best and the worst of his camping experiences, Max promises that he wouldn’t change a single thing about the past three years.
As it’s easy to imagine, however, the past years weren’t free of challenges and hiccups for Max: from collapsed tents to keeping warm throughout storms and snowy nights, up to getting sick with COVID during the heatwave.
But challenges are part of the game, and he faced every single one of them with a positive attitude and a goal-driven mind.
“One time my tent collapsed in the wind and rain at about 10 p.m. and we had to put a new one up,” he says.
“It was tempting to go inside but I knew I would be so disappointed in myself that I just kept going and stayed out there.” - Max
Despite the inevitable ups and downs, the many encounters with foxes and bugs, the chilly winters and the suffocating summers, Max has loved his one-of-a-kind adventure from day one.
"I have had the best three years of my life. I have met some amazing people and had brilliant experiences. I don’t think I would change anything.”
“I only set out to have an adventure and raise £100. It is crazy that it has got so much attention but I hope it makes people see that children are capable of a lot more than people think.”
“If I could meet my younger self, I would just tell him to believe in himself and enjoy every second.”
Thanks to the support of his family and friends – as he calls it, a “family effort” - Max has successfully raised a record-breaking sum for the hospice. His accomplishment and selflessness officially welcomed him into the Guinness World Records annals.
“It was brilliant. My Uncle James always gets me the Guinness World Records book for Christmas. It’s every boy's dream!”
29 March will mark another huge change in Max’s life - his final night in the tent.
As of April 2023, the record-breaking teen is ending his camping, returning to the comfort of his bedroom.
At the end of this journey, it is easy to imagine how incredibly proud his late friend would be of Max, of the young man he grew to be and of the adventure that he lived thanks to his tent.
As the Boy in the Tent prepares to pack up, enjoying a good night of sleep in a traditional bed for the first time in three years, North Devon Hospice and Max's family celebrate his world record.
“The boy who first pitched his tent in March 2020 has grown into a very impressive young man, who has helped to change the lives of so many.” - Stephen Roberts, North Devon Hospice
In the immediate future, Max plans to enjoy a good night of sleep and focus on his rugby.
However, the teen record holder is already peeking outside the fences of his garden in search of new outdoor adventures.
We wish Max every luck for his future, and can’t wait to see what adventures await him and his tent.
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