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A Taste of What Sleep Out Saturday Means to Participants!

October 17, 2009
We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes. – JFK

Hello again to our readers of the Sleep Out Saturday 2009 blog!

It’s now time to feature our second interview of four, and this week you can really get a feel for the tremendous sentiment that comes every year with Sleep Out Saturday. Another big thank you goes out to Michelle Stuhlmacher, from the First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn, for taking the time to speak with us. Here’s what she had to say…

Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you became involved in Sleep Out Saturday?
My name is Michelle and I am a junior at Wheaton North High School. My church has always been a big sponsor of Bridge Communities and last year one of the women involved in organizing SOS at my church asked me if I wanted to work as a peer leader for SOS. As a high schooler I have a ridiculously busy schedule – between homework, sports, and extracurriculars, I don’t really have much free time. I thought that Bridge Communities was a great organization and Sleep Out Saturday a terrific event, but I didn’t know if I could add yet another time commitment. Then I remembered what it is like out in the cold, and sometimes the wet, trying to fall asleep and thinking how hard it would be to do this every single night. I realized how lucky I am to have a place I can come home to and I decided that I could make time for a cause like this one. I agreed because the work that Bridge Communities does is so important to our community and is an awesome volunteer opportunity for an organization I really believe in.

We’re all glad you could find the time for something like this. What was your role last year?
I was a peer leader last year and really enjoyed it. As a peer leader I did some PR for the event like interviews and other media relations. I also can talk to groups of kids who do, or are, interested in doing SOS. I had never seen the planning and managing side of how Sleep Out Saturday is run until last year. I was amazed at how much time and energy went into organizing the event, but equally shocked at the enthusiasm and the passion of everyone who works at Bridge Communities. They believe in what they do and can’t wait to share this love with others. I was thrilled to count myself among these great people working together for a very important cause.

What activities did you plan and/or participate in?
Peer leaders have a variety of roles; I mainly worked on public relations. I was interviewed for a radio news story on the event and the video shown at the rally the night of Sleep Out Saturday.

Do you believe more kids your age should become involved in events like this, and why?
Yes, events like SOS are so easy and simple. All you have to do is raise funds and sleep out for one night and you have helped a person or a family for a lifetime. We have the ability to do so much if we all work together, the more people we get, the more lives we can touch. If just one person raises money and sleeps out in their yard, he or she might be able to help a family for a couple of months. But if 1,000 people sleep out we raise thousands more and exponentially increase our awareness. And that is really why we sleep out – it is one thing to raise money, it is a completely different story to live a night in the life of a homeless person. After that one night people go home changed by the experience. I didn’t realize how many things I take for granted living here in DuPage County. Be person 1,001…you do make a difference!

What do you look forward to most about SOS this year?
The rally! Every year it gets bigger and better. More people come and more entertainment is planned. I am excited not only to see the DJ or band that comes and plays, but also the sheer number of people who are all coming out with one purpose in mind. We are all there to make someone else’s life better…to give them a warm, dry place to stay. If you have ever slept out you know what it is like to wake up in the morning and be a little sore, a little groggy, but imagine feeling that every single morning and still having to go to school or work. It is something that not a lot of people get to understand. I look forward to others, and myself, being able to connect with the families who have been homeless.

This year’s theme is HOPE…what does that mean to you?
That word has been used often around the country in the past year, but I think Bridge Communities provides real HOPE to many homeless families in DuPage County. They have helped move families off the streets and start them towards better education and jobs and permanent housing. Bridge Communities provides housing but it also provides HOPE for a brighter future. Each family receives a mentor them that guides the family on their journey to stability; these people really give the family new HOPE for the future. SOS mirrors the families’ HOPE as well. By coming out on a chilly fall night, the sleepers show they have hope for a better tomorrow, one in which everyone will have somewhere warm and dry to stay.

Do you have any suggestions for new group/peer leaders this year?
Just that you are helping out a great cause and feel free to let people know that you believe that everyone should have a home. The experience you get from this night is not one that you are likely to get anywhere else in DuPage County. We are all so lucky to have a home so share your experiences, your time and your funds and help those who have not been so lucky. We can make the world a better place, just work together.

Thanks, so much, Michelle. Keep up the great work!
You’re welcome, anything I can do for Sleep Out Saturday is truly a blessing.
If you are a group leader and would like to nominate one of your teens or if you are a teen that is participating in Sleep Out Saturday 2009 and would like to be a SOS Peer Leader, please contact Lisa Hedrick at for more information.

That concludes this week’s segment. Please make comments or suggestions or share tips and stories about Sleep Out Saturday too!

Next week we’ll have a glimpse into a first time Sleep Out Saturday group and the excitement surrounding planning this event! Thanks and have a great week!

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