20th April 2022

A hardy schoolboy who dreams of one day flying with the Red Arrows braved Arctic conditions sleeping out all night in a valiant effort to support homeless veterans.

Twelve-year-old East Kilbride Air Cadet Ashton Wilson pledged to sleep in a tent in his garden for the full month of March to raise much needed funds for the Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI).

The aim of the Great Tommy Sleep Out for RBLI is to spend one night under the stars - a challenge the Busby youngster successfully completed from his garden last year.

But with a whole month experiencing all four seasons under canvas behind him - even enduring snow, high winds and minus 5 degree temperatures - the avid camper decided to leave his warm comfy bed for the whole of April to raise even more money for the charity close to his heart.

So far the determined youngster, who recovered from COVID just in time to start his marathon fundraiser, has raised over £2800 which is enough to support 11 veterans with emergency accommodation. 

Ashton, a pupil of Williamwood High, told Lanarkshire Live: "Last year I did the Great Tommy Sleep Out for the RBLI and raised a couple of hundred pounds, but this year I wanted to raise as much money as I can and awareness for the 6000+ homeless veterans.

"They have gave their time for our country but haven’t received the support of our country back after leaving the Forces. I have taken the decision to sleep out for the month of March and April. I’m lucky I have a tent, good sleeping bag, firepit and family support - many don’t have these luxuries.

"Being homeless doesn’t mean that you are sleeping rough in doorways, it encompasses those who have no fixed abode - sleeping in cars, sheds or sofa surfing on friends couches meaning they're unable to create a stable lifestyle and gain employment or receive benefits.

"All donations no matter how big or small will make a huge difference to a veteran's life."

RBLI is a national charity supporting the Armed Forces, people with disabilities and the unemployed. The Great Tommy Sleep Out is an annual fundraising challenge in the month of March supporting the estimated 6000 veterans who are experiencing homelessness in the UK.

Ashton hopes to hit his target of £3000 - every £255 raised supports one more veteran.

His proud mum Lorna Lyons said: "I'm extremely proud of Ashton, he has so much grit and determination.

"His brother used to be a Pipe Major and his uncle was in 2 Scots so the military is a big thing for him. He joined East Kilbride Air Cadets when he turned 12 just after Christmas - he's always wanted to fly military planes and his dream is to be in the Red Arrows.

"He loves the outdoors and goes wild camping in Glen Coe with his dad and his younger brother so he is very self sufficient. He's been in his element camping out in all weathers, collecting his own wood and cooking his own dinners on the camping stove.

"He made himself a barbecue in the hot weather and even stuck it out in minus 5 conditions - he was absolutely frozen. He's already started planning for next year's event."

Source: Daily Record