Max Woosey gets ready to spend the night in his tent. So far he has raised more than $700,000 in donations.

An 11-year-old boy who raised more than $700,000 by camping in his garden is being nominated to become one of the youngest recipients of an honor.

North Devon Hospice, where Max Woosey’s charitable efforts have funded end-of-life care that will benefit more than 300 people, has nominated him to receive an honor with support from the lord lieutenant of Devon.

Stephen Roberts, chief executive of the hospice, said that Max’s “phenomenal” fundraising would pay for 13 nurses who would care for more than 300 terminally ill patients at the hospice or in their own homes.

“I live very close to the family and I have jokingly asked Max how big he wanted his bronze statue to be in our gardens,” Roberts said. “We won’t be having a statue but we will absolutely be looking to acknowledge him.” As well as the honors nomination, Roberts said: “We may also create a Max Woosey young fundraiser of the year award for someone under 16 who has gone beyond in terms of fundraising.”

Max, from Braunton, Devon, was inspired to raise money after witnessing the care that the hospice gave to his adventurous neighbors, Rick and Sue Abbott, when they both died of cancer.

Max has inspired children around the world to help raise money for causes they are passionate about.

Weeks before he died, Mr Abbott gave his tent to his young neighbor and told him: “Max, I want you to promise me you will have an adventure in it.” Since then Max has spent every night in his garden, going through several tents in the process and enduring sub-zero temperatures and storms that left him crying from the cold.

He began hoping to raise £100 (around $138) but since then has raised more than $700,000 in donations which will be topped up by $135,000 in gift aid. He also inspired children around the world to join him for a charity campout on March 27, to mark a year in his tent, which has collectively raised more than $80,000 for charities supported by each individual child.

The Cabinet Office said that the youngest people to receive an honor had been three 13-year-olds, who were each awarded the British Empire Medal for charitable fundraising. They were Ibrahim Yousaf, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, in 2020; Jonjo Heuerman, from Dartford, Kent, in 2016; and Milly Pyne, from Ulverston, Cumbria, in 2012. Nominations for honors are considered by a committee which makes recommendations to the Queen.

A mother zebra shows her foal how to earn its stripes.
An illustration from Amelia Opie’s The Black Man’s Lament (1826) urges readers to sign the Petition for Abolishing the Slave Trade. It spoke especially to Britain’s youngest citizens.

If children and teenagers today are more zealous than their elders in support of causes such as racial justice and climate activism, they are following in a long tradition.

Children around Britain gave up sweets and cakes in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as part of a broader sugar boycott to protest against slavery and often acted independently of their parents, a study has found.

The research highlights the extent of children’s involvement in the abolitionist movement, the great moral cause of the era. This ranged from avoiding products made from sugar, which was grown using slave labor, to giving pocket money to antislavery campaigns, embroidering samplers with antislavery messages and setting an example for adults around them to follow.

While the involvement of children was known to historians, the researchers said the extent to which they were proactive, rather than passive followers of adult influence, had not been appreciated.

Children around Britain gave up sweets and cakes in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Dr Ryan Hanley, of the University of Exeter, and Professor Kathryn Gleadle, of the University of Oxford, both historians, examined hundreds of newspaper reports, letters and diaries illustrating the activism of middle-class children, many of whom were under 12. They found that young people could be inspired by parents, teachers and abolitionists but often took the initiative in how they protested, and sometimes surprised or discomfited adults around them.

Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, who was born Mary Anne Galton in 1778 to a Birmingham Quaker family, recalled how, as a child, she and her female cousins read antislavery pamphlets, examining “in detail the prints of slave ships and slave treatment”. Despite mentioning adult influences, such as family friend Thomas Clarkson, an abolitionist, she presented her boycott as a positive decision by herself and her peers. “Both my cousins and I resolved to leave off sugar,” she said.

This was despite opposition from some of those around her. Her governess in particular mocked the practice. Schimmelpenninck said it was due to antislavery literature provided by her adult cousin, Lizzie Forster, that she was able to “abstain more zealously than ever, though alone in my family, from using sugar,” despite being “subject to daily ridicule and taunts”.

Lucy Aikin, a writer born in 1781, also abstained from sugar and recalled: “I should scarcely be believed were I to recount the bitter persecutions we poor children underwent in the children’s parties which we frequented, for denying ourselves on principle the dainties which children most delight in.”

Texts such as Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography, which depicted the horrors of slavery, helped the development of child and adolescent abolitionists.

In their paper, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, the researchers said the diaries and notebooks of Katherine Plymley, born in 1758 into Shropshire gentry, gave one of the most detailed insights into children’s involvement.

Plymley was the sister of the Venerable Joseph Corbett, an archdeacon and important figure in the antislavery movement, and cared for his children. In April 1792 she recorded the family’s early history of sugar abstention and said: “Among those children who are inform’d on the subject I have heard of more readiness to give up the use of sugar than among grown people.”

Plymley wrote that her seven-year-old nephew, Panton, had been refusing to have his shoes shined because he had heard that the polish contained sugar. The following year the family was visited by Olaudah Equiano, the Black abolitionist, who talked to the children about the antislavery movement and gave them a signed copy of his autobiography The Interesting Narrative.

“Among those children who are inform’d on the subject I have heard of more readiness to give up the use of sugar than among grown people.”

The researchers said children not only set a moral example, which was praised and encouraged by adult abolitionists, but often pursued their activism into adulthood. Panton Corbett, for example, became an MP who supported abolition in Parliament.

Hanley said: “Children have been known to be involved in antislavery activism, but until now it wasn’t clear if this was as a result of their own efforts, or the influence of parents or teachers … Children used the antislavery movement to negotiate their own place in the world. Sometimes they were the first members of their families to abstain from using sugar and they also encouraged their parents to do it.

“In other cases, children questioned their involvement to leverage authority over their own lives. Hundreds of years ago children had a political voice and they used it. They made their voice heard on contemporary issues and this is an example of that.”

It has been estimated that 300,000 families participated in a sugar boycott in the early 1790s after the publication of abolitionist William Fox’s pamphlet An Address to the People of Great Britain, on the Propriety of Refraining from the Use of West India Sugar and Rum. Greater numbers took part in boycotts in the 1820s.