Reggie’s Sleepout is raising awareness for homelessness


Reggie’s Sleepout Preview 2018

Maddie Casady

The Ames community will be joining together on the field of Jack Trice Stadium on March 24 to sleep under the stars for one night during the annual Reggie’s Sleepout.

Reggie’s Sleepout is an event hosted by Youth and Shelter Services (YSS), Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS) and Emergency Residence Project (ERP) with the intent to raise money and awareness about youth homelessness in central Iowa and across the country.

The event is designed to help those participating understand what it is like to sleep outside, even if just for a single night. The event is free to attend, but donations and fundraising are encouraged. Throughout the event, there will be entertainment, including a comedian and bands, food, and educational opportunities for the participants.

Reggie’s Sleepout was started 12 years ago in honor of a young man named Reggie Kelsey who, in 2001, aged out of foster care when he turned 18. Three and a half months later, Reggie was found dead in the Des Moines River.

As a result, YSS developed Reggie’s Sleepout to bring a wider awareness to the issue in Des Moines and other cities.

Advocacy efforts initially started with an event called “Celebration of Hope.” This event involved auctioning off pottery that was painted by celebrities, such as John Travolta, Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Cosby. The first year was highly successful, bringing in over $6,000.

The following year, the event was not nearly as successful, only bringing in about half of what was raised the year prior, which sent the YSS team back to the drawing board, resulting in the creation of Reggie’s Sleepout. Those on the board found the sleepout was a good way to give the community a small sense of what these youths and others who face homelessness go through.

“I went to a lot of fundraisers and very few, if any, were in as close alignment with the cause as Reggie’s Sleepout,” said Andrew Allen, CEO of YSS.

The sleepout this year is only the second event in Ames and will mark the 13th year there has been an event held in Des Moines. Between the events in Des Moines and Ames, Reggie’s Sleepout has raised nearly $2 million for homeless youth since it began 12 years ago.

This year, McFarland Clinic, Wells Fargo, Todd and Sargent, Iowa State and three of the “First Ladies of Iowa State Athletics” — Katie Prohm, Erica Campbell and Deb Fennelly — are all actively donating, participating and fundraising to help the cause. All proceeds these organizations, women and other participants raise for the event are shared equally between YSS, ACCESS and ERP so all three organizations are able to aid in reducing and eliminating youth homelessness.

YSS is an Iowa organization which has positively impacted youth and families by giving them hope and empowerment for more than 40 years. YSS helps 67,000 children every year with an 80 percent success rate.

The organization provides a variety of programs through their locations throughout central and north Iowa to allow the youth and families to build a brighter future.

ACCESS primarily focuses on aiding survivors of domestic and sexual abuse as well as those seeking social justice. The organization provides many services, such as support groups, advocacy and temporary, emergency housing, to those in need free of charge while remaining confidential. ACCESS has several locations in central Iowa as well as several hotlines to assist those around Iowa.

ERP is an organization in Ames which provides food and shelter to the homeless as well as aid in the prevention of individuals becoming or remaining homeless. ERP has been in Ames for more than 33 years and has aided more than 2,000 individuals and families during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“Every person deserves a home, but especially every kid should have able housing and this is a way that we both raise awareness and money, and it’s in a format that’s actually pretty fun,” said Allen.

For more information, visit the Reggie’s Sleepout website