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Sleeping out for a cause

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Story by Emily Sadecki

Photos by Jeremy Leong

reggiessleepover2_leongOn Saturday, music, cheering and a booming voice over a loud speaker wafted from Drake Stadium.

Not for a football game, though. Instead, the stadium was illuminated for a group of about 1,000 campers ‘playing’ for Iowa Homeless Youth Shelters.

The field was scattered with elaborate cardboard boxes, people, food and in the center, a large cardboard pumpkin elevated as a centerpiece.

Campers formed teams and raised money collectively for the Iowa Homeless Youth Centers, including people of all ages, from elementary to retirement.

The Iowa Homeless Youth Centers helped close to 400 homeless youth in the Des Moines Area this past year and are continuing to through various programs and centers.

Some of these centers include the Homeless and Runaway Street Outreach Center, Supportive Housing, Buchanan Transitional Living Center, the Lighthouse Host Home and the Aftercare Network Services.

IHYC also offer educational services and support to youth who need help finishing school or transitioning to post-high school education.

They outlined exactly what each amount of donation would be able to provide. $25 will fund a safe night of shelter, $50 necessary vital documents, $75 a meal for up to 20 youth, and $100 will allow a youth to earn his or her GED.

reggiessleepover3_leongAs of 6 p.m. on the night of the sleepout, $113,186 had already been raised.

They focus on creating homes and resources for youth. Long-term challenges for homeless youth include health problems, mental and behavioral issues and inability to focus on school if they are concerned about where their next meal is coming from. Some also become pregnant with no support or childcare or have no safe place to sleep at night.

Sonny Fox helped with the event as part of the Advisory Board for the Iowa Homeless Youth Shelters.

“Polk County has right around 1,000 homeless youths,” Fox said.  “The whole idea is that people who camp out raise money for the IHYC. It is really exciting and a lot of fun.

“We are going to have about 1,000 campers tonight. We have spent a lot of time and energy getting all the logistics for tonight set up. The campers are getting together cardboard houses that will be judged with prizes for those.”

A group of students from Dallas Center Grimes High School National Honors Society were returning to participate in the festivities.

Junior Jenna Humke says that she comes back every year because “It’s a lot of fun, there are always good memories and it is a good cause.”

Classmate Andrea Lillig said throughout the night they will eat food and play games while raising awareness for the Iowa Homeless Youth Shelters.

Lillig and Fox said one of their favorite events of the night is an impromptu talent show where campers show off their various gifts, whether it be singing or dancing.

Sergeant Debbie Richardson of the Des Moines Police Department has worked the sleep out for most of its years of operation.

“The years I have worked it, I have seen a lot of the same faces, I also see a lot of new faces every year too.” “It is always fun to see what new things they come up with to build,” Richardson said.

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