Three sisters from Shorewood have been sleeping outside in a cardboard box for almost two weeks.
“It gets really cold,” 9-year-old Danielle Sewald said.
The girls are on their second refrigerator box after their first was destroyed by rain during one of their first nights.
“It caved in on us,” 11-year-old Debra said. “We had a broom holding it up.”
Danielle, Debra and their 3-year-old sister Savanah are participating in the annual Sleep Out Campaign in support of Interfaith Outreach Community Partners (IOCP). The girls say they want to raise money to keep as many people as possible off Minnesota streets this winter.
Each night they bundle up with sweaters, hats and thick socks, and stuff their makeshift bedroom with blankets, pillows and plenty of books.
“We read, play games and talk a lot,” Danielle said.
The sisters originally set out to raise $400. They passed the $1,100 mark this week, and the donations keep pouring in. Most of the girls’ supporters have been from Minnesota, but checks have arrived from as far away as the Virgin Islands. Encouraged by the support, the Sewald sisters say they are going to try to continue sleeping on their deck until Christmas Eve.
Carrie Sewald-Hester is the girls’ mom. She said seeing her girls take it upon themselves to think of others and follow through with their plan has been one of her proudest moments as a parent.
“It was the oldest two—it was their idea,” she said.
The family’s church is one of many around Lake Minnetonka that organizes a congregation sleep out every year. Because she has a 1-year-old child, Sewald-Hester wasn’t able to attend this year’s event.
But her girls, as usual, wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“They asked if they could sleep out on the deck, and I said sure,” Sewald-Hester said. “The next morning they came to me and said there had to be more they could do than just one night and just a little bit.”
Eleven days later, they’re still going.
“I am so proud, just talking about it gets me choked up,” she said. “They are not only teaching me a lesson, they’re teaching the world a lesson. I’d say a lot of people can learn from what these little ones are doing. It’s just amazing.”
The girls are among hundreds of Lake Minnetonka-area community members and civic groups participating in the annual “Sleep Out” Campaign, which will attempt to raise more than $2 million this year to fight homelessness in the greater Minneapolis area.
Kristi Piehl works for Media Minefield, which is coordinating publicity for IOCP's Sleep Out Campaign.
Piehl said more people, from both the Lake Minnetonka area and around the state, donate money than actually sleep outside during fundraiser. She added that more than 900 families will receive some form of assistance thanks to the community’s collective efforts.
The girls, who are homeschooled, said their friends think it’s “pretty cool” that they’re sleeping outside to help others. Their mom posts daily updates on aFacebook page she has created.
"They must have stayed warm last night, because they are still sleeping," she posted Wednesday morning. "They have never slept this late in the morning! It's already 8:30 am, homeschool starts at 9:00 am. I think I will let them sleep for a bit since they haven't been getting much of that lately."
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