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Catholic Vancouver Dec. 6, 2017

6-year-old sleeps outside to help homeless youth

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Bellamina Wynne, 6, participated in a Sleep Out event with her mother to raise funds for homeless youth through Covenant House. (Photos submitted)

VANCOUVER—One of Covenant House’s youngest supporters is proud she spent one night sleeping outdoors to raise funds for homeless youth.

“I was very nervous, but I wanted to do it,” said six-year-old Bellamina Wynne, who raised $1,290 for Covenant House with her mother, Marie.

Marie said the idea came up when the Joseph Richard Group, a B.C.-based company that owns several restaurants and public houses, decided to host a fundraiser for homeless youth with its staff Nov. 13.

Marie, executive assistant to JRG’s CEO, signed up for the effort along with about 100 co-workers and supporters. They started raising funds and getting ready to spend a night outside on a piece of cardboard.

But when she told her daughter Bellamina about the effort, the six-year-old insisted on joining.

Bellamina smiles as she wraps herself in a sleeping bag and lies on a piece of cardboard.

“I was really taken aback when she said she wanted to participate! It's for adults,” said Marie. But Bellamina told her: “It's for kids sleeping outside, so I can sleep outside.”

The girl’s insistence won her mother over, and Bellamina joined in the effort, raising funds, creating behind-the-scenes videos, and, on Nov. 13, sleeping outdoors.

“I slept with blankets and my scarf and earmuffs and so many pairs of clothes on,” Bellamina told The B.C. Catholic after the experience.

She said she felt cold, uncomfortable, and sorry for the up-to-1,000 children and teens Covenant House says sleep on the streets on any given night.

“I care for everybody in the Covenant home including the poor people and the people who have no homes and they are sleeping outside right now.”

In total, the JRG team raised $115,300 for Covenant House, beating its $50,000 goal. They aim to make it an annual staff event.

“It was a very eye opening experience,” said Marie. “It’s sad to think kids are still stuck out there in this day and age.”

She said while Bellamina managed to get some sleep, most participants did not. “It makes you think about the kids who are out there with very little, with a jacket but maybe without a sleeping bag,” and who “have to do that day in and day out.”

JRG staff members smile for a photo during the Sleep Out night Nov. 13. Bellamina is in the front row, third from left.

Covenant House hosts several Sleep Out fundraisers each year, but communications spokeswoman Michelle Clausius confirmed this was the first time an outside group hosted one.

She said two days after JRG’s event, Covenant House held its annual Sleep Out executive edition, inviting business leaders to sleep outdoors and raise funds for homeless youth.

“The three main partners of the JRG group slept out for our event, too.” That event, held Nov. 16, raised $929,250 for homeless youth.

Covenant House also hosts Sleep Out events for students, young professionals, and mothers. Clausius said Bellamina is the first six-year-old to participate that she knows of.