A life-changing charity has said a heartfelt thanks to 66 business leaders whose sponsorship is helping to transform young lives.

Over the last decade, Carlisle Youth Zone (CYZ) has been a lifeline for thousands of young people, providing them with fun, a safe place to make friends, and support – particularly through a volunteer mentoring project.

The charity also helps some children whose lives are blighted by poverty.

But with no public funding, it has to depend heavily on sponsors – and at a special event last night, CYZ bosses brought together their 66-strong “family” of patrons who make it all possible.

“Each one of you, every single donation, is giving children a vital lifeline,” said Lynsey Buckle, CYZ’s development manager as she addressed the group.

“We tell people all the time that we couldn’t do this without you. And sometimes I worry that you just think that’s something I say. But I truly mean it. In short, your investment, your donation, the commitment that you are making, is giving children back their childhood.”

She said the charity – while supported by some grants and trusts – survives on donations.

“We receive no income from schools, local authorities or central government – despite the constant lobbying from us, from some of you, and the huge burden that we’re alleviating from social services, health authorities and the criminal justice system.”

The event celebrated the difference CYZ patrons were making to the city of Carlisle and its children. “None of what happens here would happen if it wasn’t for you,” said Lynsey. “You are safeguarding some of the most disadvantaged children in this city.”

Life can be profoundly challenging for some young people, she said.

“For some being disadvantaged is being the kid who takes a lunchbox into school to keep up appearances – even though there’s no food inside.

“For some, it’s being the kid with no friends because nobody wants to play at your house. For some it’s sleeping on a pile of coats for a bed, or being evicted for the fifth time. For some, it’s going to bed hungry and not being able to pay attention the next day and knowing that you’re labelled as trouble.”

Some children face stresses way beyond their years, she said. “You’re giving these children a place to grow and be safe.”

Lynsey added: “We have patrons from all walks of business life, from major industry to one-man bands.

“They all have two things in common; they realise that our young people need to be supported, nurtured and developed and that with their help the Youth Zone can play a part in providing a safe haven where we can help them have the opportunities they deserve.

“We would like many more patrons so that we can do more.I would encourage anyone interested in being a patron to come in and see what we are doing.”

The patrons there last night included some of Carlisle’s best-known business figures, including Tim Davies from Carrs Group, Sam Lloyd from Lloyd Motors, David Hogarth from Cumbrian Properties, and Angus Grant of Carlisle Brass. The charity must raise £500,000 a year to provide its current level of service. It also needs volunteers.