On November 21, 2019 Koi-Fly CEO Stacey Grant participated in Covenant House’s Annual Sleep Out on the streets of Philadelphia. This is her experience.
The Night Before
I was in tears. It was just twelve hours before I’d be spending the night in a cardboard box on the street. I’d eagerly committed to The Covenant House’s annual Sleep Out and successfully raised $5000 for the cause, but I couldn’t for the life of me explain my sudden trepidation. Why was sleeping in a box on the street for one night making me so nervous?
When we created the Fresh Filmmakers program at Koi-Fly I didn’t realize the impact two incredible nonprofits would have on me, both personally and professionally. The teens at Chester County Futures were our students.
The people at Covenant House were our heroes. Both nonprofits help transform lives, offer housing and support and put teens on a path to independence. And both inspire me to do more to help change lives.
* To learn more about our Fresh Filmmakers program, click here.
The Day Of
When I woke up the morning of the Sleep Out I gathered up my blankets and savored my warm and comfy bed. I would not be there tonight. But I knew that I only had to manage a few hours on the street, and assumed it’d be pretty easy. I was encouraged not to bring anything except the clothes on my back and a few necessities, so I grabbed my phone, camera, hand warmers, long johns, hats and gloves. I set out in my warm long, puffy coat. What I lacked in mobility I gained in warmth. I drove to the Sleep Out with a pit in my stomach. What would I encounter this evening? Where would I be sleeping? Would there be food?
Speakers from Covenant House shared their challenges at a candlelight vigil. Raw, emotional stories of time spent on the streets, trying to survive, hoping for a better tomorrow. My fear quickly subsided, and my tears eventually flowed.
I set my boxes up and rolled out my sleeping bag. Then, I took a walk around and checked out everyone’s cardboard homes. When I returned to my spot, I crawled inside my box and zipped up my sleeping bag all the way. I was exhausted but my eyes were wide open. I listened to the sounds outside the box and tried to launch myself into the headspace of a person who slept on the street indefinitely. It was surreal. When I tried to zip my sleeping bag up all the way the zipper was stuck. I was momentarily panicked. Not being zipped in was a game changer. As I calmly detangled my sleeping bag zipper I felt truly grateful to not have to deal with mini crises like this every night.
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Box
I awoke to drops of rain pelting the top of my box. I unzipped my sleeping bag, fumbled my way out of the box and ran to a nearby building to find garbage bags. I wrapped them around the end of my sleeping bag where my feet were getting wet and put my shoes in a plastic bag so they wouldn’t get soaked. I was feeling amped up, but exhausted. The man in the box next to me started to snore. I took some photos, texted my family and drifted off to sleep until the cold woke me up again.
I unzipped my sleeping bag, went hunting for another sleeping bag and cracked open some hand warmers.
We Did It!
I woke up a few hours later and heard the guy next to me say to his buddy, “We did it.” It was still dark but we made it through the night!! I was profoundly tired and drove home in a fog.
As I drove home from the Sleep Out I saw many homeless people sleeping in storefronts, thinking about where the day would take them. But for me, things were different. I realized I’ll never look at a person who sleeps on the street the same way again. I vowed never to take my warm bed for granted. And I promised I’ll always do my part to contribute my time and resources to helping those who are less fortunate than me find a better path to new opportunities.
To learn more about how you can contribute to the Covenant House Sleep Out, click here.
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