This winter, many area residents will trade the comforts of a bed for the experience of sleeping in a tent, or even a box, to help families find housing and hope.
“Sleep Out is a campaign to raise awareness of and funds for struggling families in our community,” said Jill Kohler, development co-director at Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners. “Stable housing means kids do better in school, parents do better at work and families do better together.”
The campaign kicks off Saturday, Nov. 12, and runs through Dec. 31.
Sleep Out will help families in the areas that Interfaith serves, including Long Lake, Minnetonka Beach, Orono, Plymouth and Wayzata.
“Two-thirds of the families we serve have incomes at or below $22,350,” Kohler said. “Nationally, poverty has grown five times faster in the suburbs than in urban cities.”
Saturday's kickoff rally will feature live music, activities for all ages and campfires at Oakwood Playfields in Plymouth from 6 to 8 p.m. KARE 11 television’s Kim Insley will emcee the event. Complimentary snacks from Caribou Coffee, Chipotle, Dairy Queen and Mann Theatres will be provided.
The rally will be followed by a community-wide Sleep Out. People are encouraged to bring a tent or a box for shelter.
“Boxes are actually warmer,” Kohler said.
This will be Peter Larson’s 12th and final Sleep Out. Larson started sleeping out as a first-grader. The Wayzata High School senior plans to sleep in a refrigerator box in his yard every night of the six-week campaign. His goal is to raise $100,000.
“Peter is our boy wonder,” Kohler said.
Groups from Cargill, General Mills, local churches, schools and scout troops have scheduled sleep outs as well. Local banks will host an employee sleep out on the patio of Sunset’s in Wayzata on Nov. 19.
Krissy Kummel chaperoned a group of middle-school students who slept out at Wayzata Community Church last year.
“I shared a box with another mom,” said the Orono parent. “It started to snow and our box got wet, but I would definitely do it again.”
Seventh-grader Jack Kummel offers a tip for keeping warm: "I covered my box with a tarp and stapled blankets to the inside walls."
Sleep Out relies on thousands of volunteers, but it all began with one man—Bob Fisher.
“In 1996, I challenged myself to learn how to winter camp, so I put a tent in my back yard,” said Fisher, owner of Bob’s Shoe Repair in Wayzata. “I found out that a 10-below sleeping bag doesn’t necessarily keep you warm.”
Fisher went to sleep, but was awakened around 2 a.m. by a voice encouraging him to help the needy in Wayzata.
“I figured the voice must be God’s because God is the only one who would know that there are needy people in Wayzata,” he said.
Fisher moved his tent to the front yard and slept there for two weeks, raising $10,000 for struggling families. Since that first winter, Sleep Out has raised more than $13 million, giving thousands of families stability and hope.
Fisher has always had a heart for helping others. When he was younger, he wanted to become a priest so he took a test at a seminary.
“I flunked the test,” he said. “But I’ve learned that you don’t have to be a licensed minister to do good things. Just go do it.”
To learn more about Sleep Out, go to www.iocp.org/sleep-out