An organization that helps homeless children in central Iowa is gearing up for an annual fundraiser that involves several hundred people camping out for one night on the football field at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Jim McWeeny, resources coordinator for Iowa Homeless Youth Centers, says this is the third year for the event – called Reggie’s Sleepout.
Roughly 300 people took part in 2006, braving a night of wintery weather. "Last year, we had much nicer weather and about 800 people slept out with us. We’re hoping for over 1,000 people to join us (this year), rain or shine," McWeeny said.
The event is named for Reggie Kelsey, a Des Moines youth who aged out of the foster care system in 2001, became homeless and was found dead in the Des Moines River two months later. McWeeny says participants in the sleepout solicit "sponsors," who pledge money to the Iowa Homeless Youth Centers .
Last year, the event raised nearly 140-thousand dollars. The goal this year is $150,000. "The funds from this event go to the operations of our organization, which is committed to identifying homeless young people, connecting them to services and helping to equip them to become independent and self-sufficient," McWeeny said.
A portion of the proceeds also benefit the Des Moines Area Religious Council Food Pantry. In Polk County alone, it’s estimated that more than 3,000 youth find themselves homeless each year. Reggie’s Sleepout is scheduled for the night of Friday, November 14th.