Over 100 Burlington High School students planned to bundle up and brave the cold tonight for the annual Spectrum Sleep Out. Mother Nature decided otherwise.
Organizers moved the event inside the high school building after a combination of snow, sleet and rain created safety concerns. This will be the fifth year BHS participates in the event, which raises funds and awareness for youth homelessness.
Administrators originally planned to hold the event indoors due to liability concerns, despite the fact that it has been held outside for the past four years. Spectrum Youth and Family Services, the organization leading the event, offered staff support to circumvent the problem.
Spectrum provides many vital services including emergency shelter, counseling, health services and much more to at risk teens and teens in general, some of which are BHS students. The funds raised each year are a major percentage of their operating budget.
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The BHS sleepout team, called “BHS Heroes,” has set a goal of raising $20,000 for this year’s sleepout. As of now, approximately $16,000 has been raised, according to organizer Francesca Dupuis.
Dupuis hoped that the event could take place on the BHS football field, but warned Friday morning that if conditions persisted the event could be moved indoors.
Junior Delia McConnell has mixed feelings about the possibility on Friday afternoon.
“I know it’s a liability issue and you can’t have kids sleep outside in the rain and the snow, but people experiencing homelessness don’t have that opportunity,” McConnell said. “It seems a little bit ingenuous, but I understand why we’d have to.”
This will be McConnell’s second time participating in the Sleep Out. She believes that the event helps to build community among students, raise awareness for Spectrum Youth and Family Services, and helps people empathize with homeless youth.
“I think parents especially, some of them get really nervous about having their kids sleep outside, and kids who do it realize how difficult it is and how hard of a situation that is,” she said.
After organizers shifted the event indoors, students pitched their tents and rolled out sleeping bags in the hallways to hunker down for the night. They were allowed to use the lobby, the A Building hallway and the front of the auditorium. Participants also had the opportunity to camp out directly in front of the school’s entrance, which several decided to do despite the rain and slush.
CORRECTION: This article originally misstated the number of Sleep Out participants from Burlington High School. 109 students were involved this year.