Sleepout for a cause

Event to raise awareness and funds for youth affected by homelessness

The weather forecast for the next several days looks to be perfect for a sleepout. But that’s not always the case for those who are forced to sleep outside because they are homeless.

A special event is being held all across the state of Iowa to help raise money and awareness to help combat youth homelessness.

Reggie’s Sleepout is a fundraiser sponsored by YSS that encourages young people, families and community members to sleepout to raise money and awareness of the homeless problem. The event runs Friday through Oct. 3.

According to Kate Garvey, YSS of Hamilton County executive director, the event is named for Reggie Kelsey, a Des Moines youth who aged-out of the foster care system in 2001. Within three months of his 18th birthday, Kelsey was found dead beside the Des Moines River. According to YSS, Kelsey had an endearing personality and struggled with mental illness and depression. He worried about how he would survive on his own. After he was removed from his last foster home, he reportedly bounced from shelter to shelter.

After his death, the Iowa Aftercare Services Network was formed to provide services and structure to youth aging out of foster care.

Garvey said pre-pandemic, Reggie’s Sleepout was a one-night event with 1,000-plus participants spending one night on the field at Drake Stadium, using cardboard enclosures they had constructed.

This year, the event has transitioned to a virtual hybrid event that asks families and youth groups to choose a night to sleepout in their own backyard or facility to raise funds and learn more about fighting youth homelessness..

Garvey said the sleepout is not about pretending to be homeless. The purpose is to join others in solidarity for those in need. She said that all funds raised in Hamilton County will go to support programs at YSS of Hamilton County for homeless and at-risk youth.

To take part in Reggie’s Sleepout, individuals and teams should pick a safe location in their yard, home or apartment. The key is to make an effort to get out of your comfort zone — so no beds. Teams can organize a sleepout night with youth groups, neighbors, friends, families or clubs.

All who take part in Reggie’s Sleepout are asked to sign up at ReggiesSleepout.org.

Hamilton County residents can also make contributions to help provide YSS programming are area youths. Donors can visit ReggiesSleepout,org to make contributions.


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