When Colette McCann from The Big South Ribble Christmas Sleepover applied for a £500 donation from the Group’s Emergency Fund for a ‘little idea’ she had, she wasn’t expecting her project to attract as much interest as it has!

“We really were not expecting the project to grow this big!” Colette tells us. “The support has been absolutely amazing! To date, we’ve had over 1,000 pairs of pyjamas donated so generously by the people of South Ribble.”

The Big South Ribble Christmas Sleepover is a project set up by Colette in November 2020 to provide new pyjamas on Christmas Eve for the children and young people in South Ribble who need them the most.

With the impact of COVID-19 affecting lots of local families, Colette wanted to do something to help. She worked with community groups, schools and businesses to identify families who would benefit the most and to get the project off the ground. These included, amongst many others, The Base and The Place community centres in Leyland and local businesses such as The Flying Pig Pizza Company, who helped collect in the pyjamas by acting as drop-off points for donations.

All the hard work paid off, and Colette says that the project has now achieved so much more than she could have ever had imagined.

In fact, the Big South Ribble Christmas Sleepover appeal has been so successful that Colette and her team of volunteers aren’t just providing pyjamas – they raised enough funds and received enough donations to be able to provide a variety of Christmas Eve bags to children and young people across South Ribble. Depending on need and availability, some bags contained a pair of pyjamas, whilst others contained sweet treats, hot chocolate, hot water bottles, crafts and stationery, reindeer food and other treats! Some of the bags also have little bells attached for the children to jingle at 6 pm on Christmas Eve on their doorsteps.

In addition to the Christmas Eve bags and pyjamas appeal, a local business who wanted to remain anonymous generously donated £1,000 of food items to the project. Pupils at SS Peter & Paul’s RC Primary School in Mawdesley helped pack the food into 50 hampers for The Base and The Place community centres to distribute to those families who would benefit the most from receiving a food hamper this Christmas.

About the support from Progress Housing Group’s Emergency Fund towards the project, Colette says, “The funding from Progress Housing Group enabled me to team up with Wade Hall and The Base community centres to provide Christmas Eve bags to 350-400 children and young people in those areas, approximately 200 children in the Moss Side area, as well as schools, nurseries and local women’s refuges across South Ribble.

“The appeal finished on 11 December and we’ve been so busy leading up to that time, and since, working with lots and lots of help from some wonderful volunteers in the community, as well as in schools, businesses and community centres to put the bags together, and we have managed to collect more pyjamas than we ever thought!

“A group of volunteers in Croston are also threading little jingle bells onto the bags as well!

“We set out to work directly with the local services and schools who support the children to whom these Christmas Eve bags, food hampers and pyjamas will mean the most to, and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved - albeit on a much bigger scale than we could have imagined thanks to the generosity and hard work of many, many people. And I really can’t thank them enough.

"Being able to provide pyjamas to over 1,000 children and young people who are really going to benefit from receiving them this year is something I really didn’t expect when I started this appeal. Everyone who has been part of this project is just so thrilled for the kids!”

To date, the Group's Community Investment Fund's Emergency Fund, has supported 32 community groups across the Lancashire area and awarded £15,865.

Speaking about the Big South Ribble Christmas Sleepover, Robert Porter, Service Director of Operations at Progress Housing Group, said, "We were absolutely delighted to approve a £500 donation from our Emergency Fund to support the Big South Ribble Sleepover. What this appeal has achieved in such a short amount of time is nothing short of astounding.

"We are proud to have played a small part in supporting Colette's McCann's wonderful idea to provide pyjamas and Christmas Eve bags to children, young people and families across the South Ribble borough. Seeing the number of local groups, individuals, businesses, schools and services that have so generously supported and donated to this project to give children and young people in South Ribble an extra special Christmas Eve really is heartwarming."

Watch: You can see some of the hard work of The Big South Ribble Christmas Sleepover appeal, by watching the video below: