ONSIDE, the charity behind Wigan Youth Zone, is gearing up for further significant growth after electrical retail giant AO.com donated £1.5 million to the charity.
It is one of the largest single private donations OnSide Youth Zones has received since it was established in 2008.
The charity is creating a UK-wide network of modern youth centres delivering a range of services that improve young people’s health, wellbeing and employability.
The 20,000 Youth Zone members make around 350,000 visits a year and are supported by 200 employees and over 700 volunteers.
The donation from AO.com’s John and Sally Roberts will help extend the OnSide Youth Zones network to 100 ‘priority’ locations - towns and cities where a facility would have the greatest impact on young people and their communities.
Mr Roberts, chief executive of Bolton-based AO.com, said: “Improving the life chances of disadvantaged young people is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s absolutely crucial to the long-term future of communities and the UK as a whole.
“Sally and I are proud to be able to share some of our success with a charity that is making a tangible impact on so many young people’s lives in so many important ways.”
Bill Holroyd CBE, OnSide Youth Zones chairman, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that John and Sally have made such a huge commitment to our charity. It’s a game-changing donation that will fuel our sustainable growth and help us encourage even more young people to lead healthy, active and positive lives.
“Self-made, community-minded entrepreneurs like John are an inspiration to young people and this act of generosity shows how passionate and committed our backers are about making a difference for future generations.”
AO.com are also championing ‘Youth Innovate’, an enterprise competition in which young entrepreneurs from across the Youth Zone network are battling it out to win the chance to have their product idea created and stocked by a major retailer.
Since 2008 the model has generated more than £70 million and a study found that on average every £1 spent on running a Youth Zone delivers £2 back in benefits to society.
Wigan Youth Zone was opened in 2013 and was funded by businessmen Dave Whelan and Martin and Bill Ainscough with a recent extension into the former Drumcroon.