Sleeping outdoors in the rain was an eye-opening experience for 10-year-old Sam Moreno.
“I thought it would be kind of easy, but sleeping outside was not fun. It was cold, it was rainy, and I would be very upset if me or my friends were homeless,” he said.
Moreno, with his 8-year-old sister and parents, spent the night of Nov. 5 tucked into a sleeping bag on flattened cardboard in a Vancouver parking lot. The event was SleepOut, a fundraising initiative in support of Covenant House, which serves homeless and at-risk youth.
“I did this because I wanted to raise money for kids and older kids who don’t have homes or safe homes,” he said.
Sleeping outdoors with them that night were about 165 employees and friends of the Joseph Richard Group. It was the second year in a row employees of that B.C.-based company, which runs 25 restaurants and public houses, hosted a SleepOut. (Last year, six-year-old Bellamina Wynne was one of the youngest participants in SleepOut history.)
Sam’s parents, both employed with JRG, had asked their children if they wanted to participate, and he and his 8-year-old sister Peyton jumped on board.
Like Sam, she was excited, at first, by the prospect of trying something new with her family. But after they set up makeshift beds and the cool air started settling in, “I felt sad because there are so many homeless youth who have to do this every night,” she said. “When I woke up in the morning, it was very early. I was cold and I hope that any other kids don’t have to do this every night.”
JRG raised $156,000 for Covenant House this year, beating the $118,000 total they raised at their inaugural SleepOut in 2017. The company intends on making it an annual event. Covenant House also hosts several of its own SleepOut events.
The two Moreno children say they hope to participate again next year. They are a little younger than Covenant House’s demographic; the charity serves to youths aged 16-24 who are seeking help after fleeing abuse or aging out of foster care.