Sleeping in a cardboard box wouldn’t be the typical Saturday night adventure for many college students, but this weekend Iowa Homeless Youth Centers is offering a different way to raise both money and awareness for the issue of youth homelessness.
This year marks the fifth annual Reggie’s Sleepout held by IHYC. The event was founded in 2006 in honor of a young man named Reggie Kelsey who spent his entire childhood in the Iowa foster care system. A mere three months after aging out of the system, Reggie was found dead in the Des Moines River.
Reggie endured much hardship throughout his life. As a teen, he was functioning at the level of an 8-year-old, and he often feared what would happen to him once he was on his own. Upon release from the foster care system, Reggie began a cycle of moving from one shelter to the next. Reggie did not receive support or guidance. His life was cut short.
In the midst of this tragedy, Youth & Shelter Services, Inc., along with IHYC, created a plan to assist individuals like Reggie, who are aging out of the foster care system. The program, now referred to as PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) aims to ease the difficult transition into independence. Their services include support for things like monthly stipends for transitioning teens.
On Oct. 16, IHYC is asking individuals to “Sleep Under the Stars So Kids Can Reach Them.” The sleepout will take place on the field of Drake Stadium. Participants can register from 3-7 p.m. on the day of the event.
Senior accounting and management major Amanda Sykora attended Reggie’s Sleepout last year with a group of her Alpha Kappa Psi friends.
“What’s great is that it gets off-campus people involved,” Sykora said. She also mentioned the great Drake student turnout last year.
The event is open to students and community members, and includes free food, awareness activities, speakers and a box-building competition.
Last year there were box arrangements ranging from a standard box to extravagant palaces complete with plastic skylights. Some larger groups had sponsors for their boxes. Judges will assess all of the boxes and declare a winner for the sleepout.
“We are in our little bubble at Drake, and we may not always see these sad stories happening, but it’s good to be reminded that they are,” Sykora said.
The 2009 Reggie’s Sleepout was successful. With funds of over $165,000 raised and 1500 participants, this year’s event will be an equal success.
With approximately $45,000 raised so far, Reggie’s Sleepout continues to bring great awareness to the sometimes forgotten, but very real, issue of youth homelessness in Iowa.
Bundle up, grab a sleeping bag and a group of friends and show your support this weekend for Reggie and many other people going through the same hardships.