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Dropping temperatures and raising funds, Bexley High School students spent the night in the cold to bring attention to the issue of homelessness. The Bexley Sleep Out raised around $4,000 for the OSU Star House.
On Friday, April 7, I joined many students and community members as we gathered together at the Clifton shelter house at Jeffrey Mansion Park. We spent the night out for Bexley High School Sleep Out Club’s annual Sleep Out event. The festivities went from 5 p.m. until 10 a.m. with a wide variety of activities to raise money for The Ohio State University Star House, a homeless center for youth ages 14-24.
This event is planned and run by the Bexley High School Sleep Out Club. As this year’s club president, I got to learn the ins and outs of what really goes into making an event like this happen. The club has been working tirelessly since October to plan for the third annual Bexley Sleep Out. Our goal is to raise awareness and funds to fight homelessness in Central Ohio.
The event is held in the cold for a reason. If it were sunny and warm it would just be an outdoor party. The cold temperatures give us a little glimpse of what it’s like to live without a home. Except we had blankets, food, coffee, and tents. Okay, so it’s not really like being homeless at all. But it definitely made us aware of the hardships many people right here in Columbus are dealing with.
Student and member of the club Claire Flora pitched a tent for the night. The sophomore said that she joined the organization to help make a difference in our community.
“I feel like we overlook homelessness because Columbus isn’t as populated as New York or Chicago but it’s still here,” she explained. “No one should have to face any of this without some help.”
Flora was part of the team of people that went around to local businesses like Roll, Native, Urban Emporium and Bath and Body Works to gather gift cards and items to use in the raffle. The raffle ticket sales are one of our biggest money making activities along with selling the shirts. We had over $2,000 from raffle tickets, T-shirt pre-orders, and individual donations before the event even started Friday evening. The grand total has not yet been counted, but we’re looking at around $4,000 total for the OSU Star House, plus 40 or so pairs of shoes from the shoe collection drive run by the Bexley High School girls track team.
A lot went into making this event happen and since it’s only our third year, it’s still a learning process. The club met once or twice every week starting in October and then even more heavily in January.
We also took a small group of club members to the OSU Star House to volunteer and learn a little more about what our money would be going toward. Part of my job as the club president was to decide which organization we wanted to donate to. The OSU Star House was chosen because they focus specifically on youth. They have a well-developed program that helps young people become self-sustainable and get back on their feet.
The Bexley Sleep Out started three years ago when a student brought the idea to one of the teachers at Bexley High School. She had done a similar event at her old school and wanted to try it here in our city. Social studies teacher Anna Schottenstein is our adviser and we wouldn’t be able to do it without her.
“I used to work in the inner city where many of my students were living below the poverty line so when a student approached me with the idea, I couldn’t say no,” said Schottenstein.
Beyond raising money, this event is really about bringing a community, especially young people, together to accomplish something big for a good cause.
“It was the most rewarding experience I’ve had because you can see the tangible results,” said sophomore club member Annie Politi. “I feel like once you get the wheel rolling, the possibilities are endless.”
The event kicked off at 5 p.m. with performances from the Bexley High drumline and student band the District Lightbulbs. Around 6:30 p.m. Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler grilled up hot dogs and hamburgers donated by The Top Steakhouse. Participants could also buy the chips, water, coffee and baked goods donated by various high school clubs like student council and the choirs.
Throughout the evening we had close to 200 people stop by and around 30 people stayed the whole night. This meant that twice as many people stayed this year compared to last year.
The event is called the Sleep Out but for many there’s minimal sleeping. Some people retreated to their tents around 11 p.m. and emerged again around 7 a.m. But about half of us got a maximum of four hours of sleep. I personally got 45 minutes of it. I was laying on a picnic table bench with my head on the leg of a classmate I rarely talk to.
All bets are off when spending the night outside in early April. Although it was cold, we were lucky to have decent weather with no rain or snow.
To help warm us all up a bit, Bexley High School Spanish teacher Profé Higgins gave a free 30-minute jazzercise workout. Her energy is always uplifting and a favorite activity during the Sleep Out for many students. After that, we heard Thank You’s from Mayor Kessler and Columbus City Council member Michael Stinziano and heard a little more about the OSU Star House and their mission from Sarah Douglas, their community liaison.
One would think that when the sun started to rise the temperature would warm up, but they would be wrong. When we stepped away from the fire to clean up, all our toes froze until we finished at 9:30 a.m.
We wished each other farewell until next time, already planning next year’s Sleep Out in the back of our minds.
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