Youth group sleeps out to raise awareness and funds
PROSPECT — Prospect Congregational Church’s Senior Youth Fellowship braved the cold weather this weekend to help raise awareness for the homeless.
The group held its 12th Annual Homeless Awareness Sleepout this past weekend. From noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday, 15 youth fellowship members set up a camp site on the small traffic island in front of the Prospect Town Hall.
“The kids stay out here for 24 hours, they make their own soup over the fire, make their own hot chocolate over the fire, and collect whatever they can collect,” Senior Youth Advisor Rick Normand said.
When the youth were not warming themselves by a barrel fire, the members would take turns standing at the intersections of Routes 68 and 69, collecting money from passing motorists to help the Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries.
This year marked the third time Mike Palmerae, 16 of Prospect, participated in the sleepout.
“Compared to other years, temperature-wise, it was a little warmer than usual. It’s great we didn’t have any snow this year. All around it is still a great experience,” Palmerae said.
Palmerae said he continues to sleep out year after year because it gives him a better appreciation for the plight of the homeless.
“I feel great after I do this, seeing people give. Sitting out here by the fire last night I was thinking that some people don’t have even the luxury of a fire. It really opens your eyes to see what people don’t have,” Palmerae said Sunday morning.
Kayla Reilly, 16 of Prospect, also slept out for the third time. She said she continues to come back because she enjoys spending time with the other youth fellowship members and to help raise money for a good cause.
“It was freezing and the sleeping conditions were really uncomfortable and my back hurts. Other than that, it’s not awful, but I wouldn’t want to do it every night, though. It helps me appreciate my bed,” Reilly said.
While Palmerae and Reilly are used to the cold that comes along with this event, John Searles, 14 of Prospect, was not quite prepared for it.
“It was very cold, but it was a good cause,” Searles said as he collected money Sunday morning along Route 68. “I did it to see what other people have to live with, to see what they deal with and how hard it really is.”
It was also the first night that Brianna Hudson, 14, slept outside for the homeless with the youth fellowship group.
“It was interesting but cold and tiring,” Hudson said. “I did it to see what the experience was like and to see what homeless people have to go through every day.”
Even though Palmerae, Reilly, Searles, and Hudson had a cold night, they all said that it was something they would do again next year.
Through their efforts, the youth fellowship was able to raise $3,100 and collected 28 bags of groceries, according to Normand.