An annual fundraising event is returning to Drake this weekend. The Iowa Homeless Youth Center is hosting Reggie’s Sleepout at the Drake Stadium on Oct. 29 to raise funds and advocate for Iowa’s homeless youth.
“Reggie’s Sleepout [began] back in 2006 in the wake of the passing of a youth named Reggie Kelsey. IHYC was looking for ways to bridge the gap in services, to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again,” said Blake Willadsen, a development coordinator for IHYC. IHYC serves about 600 youths per year between the ages of 16 and 24.
Funds raised from Reggie’s Sleepout go directly to providing meals, transportation, healthcare and general support young adults need when making the difficult transition to adulthood.
“These young people are the same age as [Drake students] and facing many of the same challenges and then some.”
Drake students can participate by coordinating teams to participate in Reggie’s Sleepout. Teams create cardboard shelters on the stadium field and then spend the night under the stars. It’s a way to “walk around the block” in the shoes of Iowa homeless youth.
“Reggie’s Sleepout provides a unique opportunity to make a difference as a community.”
A meal and entertainment is provided along with education about homeless youth in Des Moines. The night caps off with awards for the cardboard structures in the categories of creativity and overall design.
“I think it’s important that this event is localized and directly benefits the Des Moines community where the impact can be seen firsthand,” senior Peyton Haas said.
Haas is the vice president of Drake’s Public Relations Student Society of America.
IHYC partnered with Drake’s PRSSA chapter to promote the event to students and the Drake community.
“I’m excited that we were able to partner with a local nonprofit again, especially one with such an important mission,” Haas said.
PRSSA’s main goal was spreading the word that this event was back for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic to students who might not have heard of it.
Reggie’s Sleepout was hosted online in the years since the last in-person event in 2019, but Willadsen said it was not the same as hosting it at the Drake Stadium.
“In a virtual format it was hard to replicate the sense of community that comes with packing hundreds of people onto the field,” he said.
The COVID-19 lockdown period was especially hard for those already facing shelter insecurity. The funds raised from Reggie’s Sleepout are important at a time when Iowa youth need assistance to ease additional issues raised by the pandemic.
“The last couple years have really tested the youth we serve, and we continue to have to adapt to the economic and social turbulence caused by the pandemic,” Willadsen said.
Check-in for the event starts at 3 p.m. on Oct. 29, and there are various activities throughout the evening. Lights go out at 11 p.m. as participants sleep outside, rain or shine, to stand in solidarity with Iowa homeless youths.
“I am most looking forward to the kinds of connections that come from an event like this. Nights like this can strengthen friendships and inspire [participants] to want to do more,” Willadsen said. “The more people in our corner of the ring, the bigger the difference we can make.”
More details can be found at Reggie’s Sleepout website.