Students ‘Sleep-in-a-Box’ for fundraiser
More than 150 Shawnee Mission Northwest students will be spending Monday night in boxes.
Nine student groups have come together to sponsor the annual Sleep-in-a-Box fundraiser at the school’s track.
In the past the fundraiser has brought in nearly $8,000, and this year shouldn’t be any different, said Sarah Dent, the SMNW teacher helping to organize the event.
“We use the event to raise awareness about the situation of the homeless,” Dent said. “We try to make students aware of the responsibility of the community to provide support to people who are less fortunate.”
Emily Ferbezar, SMNW senior and student coordinator for the event, said Sleep-in-a-Box was a way for students to reflect on the issue of homelessness.
“It’s great to see how much we can contribute to the cause,” she said.
The project allows students to step outside of their comfort zone and simulate what it’s like to be homeless, Dent said.
“It’s a highly structured situation, but what other time are they going to sleep outside in a box in any weather,” she said. The event will be canceled only if lightning is present, she said.
Students provide their own boxes for the event and are asked to make at least a $40 donation to participate.
Emily said some students donate the money themselves while others collect donations from the community.
About 8 p.m. the night of the event, students will trickle onto the SMNW track, Dent said.
For the first hour or so James Davidson will talk to students about the Shalom House shelter he directs. Dent said a few residents of Shalom House then tell students their stories.
“What kids get from that speech is that these are normal, everyday people,” Dent said. “They just end up homeless. It kind of instills the belief that this could happen to anyone, not just a particular group of people.”
After the speeches students are provided with water and pizza, while they write a letter, note or journal entry reflecting on their experiences.
For every five students that participate, one sponsor over the age of 21 must be present, Dent said.
The fundraiser also hires security guards for the evening.
In addition, the student groups fund a large Deffenbaugh recycling bin to collect boxes the following day. Dent said some cardboard boxes are also donated to local Girl Scout troops for forts.
Students that make it thought the entire evening will receive breakfast in the morning.
Although many SMNW student groups are involved with the event, it is not sponsored by the Shawnee Mission School District. A district policy adopted almost two years ago does not allow overnight events, Dent said.
However, the event can still be held on school grounds after the purchase of an insurance policy. For the past two years the Lenexa Rotary Club has donated the insurance policy.
“When we thought we were going to lose the event, we talked with Shalom House and realized how much the support meant to them,” Dent said. “We were told that the money we brought in is a significant percentage of their annual operating budget.”
The reception from students has been amazing, Dent said.
“It seems like everyone is really excited about it,” she said. “People are excited to do something different. It’s a unique opportunity. The point is to raise awareness of homelessness and to have students interested is a huge deal.”
Emily said the event is a great way for students to realize the plight of the homeless.
“I want all the kids to realize how fortunate and blessed we are,” she said. “Its more than the awareness that people do sleep in boxes and don’t have warm beds to go home to or showers to take in the morning. It’s awareness of people outside our own little world.”