Final fundraising push for life-changing outdoor education centre
'˜YMCA Lakeside changed my life '“ help it do the same for other young people'
A charity is urging everyone to support a world-class outdoor activity centre - and help change more young people’s lives.
A major fundraising campaign was launched to create a new state of the art school facility with accommodation, eight recreational rooms, integrated climbing wall and pitches for a tented village.
Although the YMCA has almost reached its fundraising target, the challenge to help change young people’s lives for the better is not over yet.
Now the YMCA needs a final push to create a welcoming and comforting experience for the young people it supports by raising the final Â£100,000 of its target by the end of the year.
It has launched the Sponsor a Bed campaign to raise funds for the school facility’s 265 beds.
For Â£200 individuals, families and businesses can sponsor a bed and have their name incorporated into the bespoke design of a special feature ‘thank you’ wall.
Since the 1950s the centre of excellence for outdoor education has helped more than one million young people across Fylde, Wyre, Lancaster, Cumbria and beyond.
However, continual use over more than 60 years had taken its toll and a complete transformation is needed to ensure it survives beyond the next few years.
The fundraising campaign could help young people like Faahd, who was just 13 when his father died, leaving him to take care of his mum.
He was stressed, tired and struggling in school until he visited YMCA Lakeside for a short break – and discovered a fresh zest for life and his future.
He has switched from feeling he had few prospects, to embarking on a college course learning about brickwork.
“My mum needs me there all the time,” he said. “I wash up, do the house work, the shopping and try to be there whenever she calls me. Sometimes I just feel too tired for school.”
At YMCA Lakeside, the outdoor activities such as raft-building helped to inspire a fresh look at life.
“I didn’t even know I enjoyed making and building things before I came here,” he said. “I wouldn’t be doing my brickwork course if it wasn’t for YMCA Lakeside.”
Movingly, the outdoor experience also helped him feel connected to his dad. “They took me down to the jetty one night and I looked up at the stars and there was one really bright star. I thought: ‘that’s dad up there looking over me’.
“Now if I’m really stressed I go to the park, look at the stars and feel better.”
He added: “YMCA Lakeside is definitely a place to invest in, so that other young people like me, can enjoy activities, learn new things, make new friends and have fun, away from their problems.”
Elliemae’s YMCA Lakeside experience was also life-changing.
“I had quite low self-confidence,” she said. “But very quickly I started giving things a go. The scariest thing at YMCA Lakeside was the zip wire - it was terrifying.
“But the staff helped me to focus and believe that nothing could hurt me – and I did it.”
She is now considering a bright future at university and has plans to travel. “YMCA Lakeside helped me to listen more and communicate better with other people,” she added.
“The experience gave me a new confidence. I don’t want to be sitting around at home anymore, I want to be out and doing things.
“It would be a good place for young people who are hanging around getting into trouble, who don’t think there is any other option.
“It could turn their lives around too”.
The new school facility will ensure the next generation of young people across Fylde, Wyre, Lancaster and Cumbria can benefit from outdoor activities, just like Elliemae and Faahd.
Eventually it’s hoped to provide a purpose-built training centre and extra family lodges at the site.
John Cronin, chief executive officer of YMCA Fylde Coast, said the new school has the impact to help up to 10,000 young people a year – and many more in the future.
“We want to make a bigger change to one million more lives through a world-class outdoor activity centre,” he added.
YMCA Fylde Coast operates its own health and fitness centres and works in partnership with Wyre and Fylde Borough Councils to provide both physical activity and housing programmes. It has also been commissioned by Lancashire County Council and Fylde and Wyre CCG to ensure everyone has access to superb facilities and programmes enabling them to benefit from an active lifestyle through the Your Move programme.
To find out more about YMCA Lakeside’s work visit www.lakesideymca.co.uk.
Find out how you could get involved with fundraising and the Sponsor a Bed campaign at www.supportlakeside.org.uk.