By Alice Roche Cody
Michaela Kroon '22 wants the whole GSB community to participate in a Friday night Sleep Out to end youth homelessness. With more than $7,300 already raised, Michaela hopes that more students, faculty, and staff will get involved.
Sponsored by Covenant House, a charity that provides shelter and support services for youth living on the streets, the Sleep Out is a virtual event that starts at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 30. Participants can sleep in basements, backyard tents, on porches, or inside a cardboard box, all in an effort to simulate the experience of spending the night outdoors. To join GSB's team, visit https://www.sleepout.org/team/GillStBernards.
"The virtual Sleep Out will bring awareness about youth homelessness to our Gill community," said Michaela. "We can relate to them, since kids our age are affected. We can put ourselves in their shoes. Especially during COVID, there's a greater need for funds."
Covenant House provides care and supplemental services to homeless youth in 31 cities and 6 countries. For the past 40 years, the nonprofit helped more than one million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people. By offering a continuum of care, Covenant House provides street outreach, short-term housing, and long-care transitional housing as well as food, clothing, legal aid, medical care, education, job training and placement, education, childcare, and parenting support. Its mission is "to serve youth with respect and unconditional love to help kids who are suffering…and to protect and safeguard all children in need."
The Sleep Out begins on Zoom at 8:00 p.m., and because of the impressive amount already raised, Michaela's team "earned" speakers from Covenant House's staff, current clients, and alumni to share their stories. Videos will be shown throughout the evening, and a conversation led by Covenant House staff will also take place. The formal program ends with A Prayer for The Homeless, after which students can log off and continue with their Sleep Out. On Saturday, at 8:00 a.m., the Gill group will come together virtually again for a morning reflection and discussion.
This will be Michaela's third Sleep Out. For her first, she ventured to Philadelphia with her mom and two friends. "We slept outside on the street and raised over $2,000," she said. "It rained, but we were covered in tarps. We listened to survivor stories about human trafficking, abuse, and neglect. The whole experience inspired me to get more involved."
Last year, due to the pandemic, all fundraisers went virtual. Michaela slept in outside with her family, raising nearly $10,000. "We watched the videos inside, and then I slept in a cardboard box in my backyard," she said. "This year, I thought I'd bring the awareness to my school. Covenant House wants to bring youth out of the cycle of homelessness, and give them an independent life for the future, not just take kids off streets."
Anyone interested in participating can sign up as part of GSB's team, and all donations, large or small, will make a difference. Next year, Michaela hopes to host an on-campus Sleep Out, and after graduation, she'd like to hand the planning over to her sister, Ainsley '24, to continue.