Cocoon Christmas Dinner
About the day
Cocoon Christmas Day (formerly Richmond Christmas Day Dinner) is an annual event for care leavers aged 18+ to celebrate their resilience and create positive memories. Members of the community get together to create a unique Christmas Day experience. The aim of the event is very simple: that no young adult care leaver should feel alone on Christmas Day.
We started as group of volunteers lead by Sian Thomas, a local nurse at the time, who founded the Richmond Christmas Day Dinner in 2017. With the help of an incredible community we have been able to put on a magical Christmas Day event every year since for up to 60 care leavers and their children. Even during the pandemic when we delivered Christmas to their doors.
The story of how this all began
The Richmond Christmas Day Dinner was set up by Sian Thomas, a nurse by background, after a chance meeting with a young homeless man.
Sian: "On Christmas Eve 2016, I met a young man sitting on the ground outside the local Burger King. We had a chat, went for a burger together and had a nice couple of hours."
"What was so sad was I could have told you history before he spoke - 22 years old, parents alcoholics, had been in care with placements broken down, foster home to foster home, children's home to children's home. Now totally alone, he was spending Christmas Eve and Day alone. Society had totally failed him. Who knows where young people like this young man would spend Christmas Day? It inspired me and a number of other people to do something about it".
Lemn Sissay, a care leaver himself, set up the original Christmas Day Dinner initiative in 2013 and there are now more than 17 UK wide, each on unique. "The thing is," says Sissay, "I remember saying when I left care, 'I don't want to just survive. I want to live'. And the Christmas Dinner isn't about surviving, it's about living".
The team at Richmond Council put together this fantastic video of Sian (founder) and Emily, one of our guests, which tells you the story of how the Cocoon Christmas Day event started.
What does it mean to our guests?
" The Christmas dinner is great when your in care, it ensures your not alone when most people are with their families. Holidays can be difficult for young people in care/ care leavers . Because it’s a reminder that you might not have a family to spend it with. You get to have a nice Christmas dinner and socialise with people, along with being able to do activities, which is great :) It’s so special that so many people volunteer and give up their own Christmas to spend it with us and make our Christmas special "