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Sleep-Out for the Homeless

Students get to experience what it's like to be homeless for one night.

The sound of duct tape being ripped echoed through the senior courtyard at White Plains High School as several dozen large cardboard boxes were organized into a small shanty town, covered with plastic garbage bags and tarps as holes were patched using the tape to keep out the forecasted rain.

No, this wasn't the latest "occupy" movement but a charitable event getting underway to help two local organizations which provide food and clothing to the homeless.

The White Plains High School Midnight Run Club held it's Third Annual Sleep-Out for the Homeless and about 30 WPHS students spent the night outside, sleeping in the cardboard boxes and getting a chance to experience, if only for one night, what it feels like to live on the streets.

"It's inspiring to see young people giving up a Friday night where they could be out having fun with their friends, staying warm and dry, for something bigger than themselves," said Social Studies teacher and club advisor Ricardo Vella. 

The event raised money for two local groups who help the homeless--The Grace Church Community Center in White Plains, and Midnight Run based in Dobbs Ferry.

"It means a lot to us that young people are supporting the needs of the homeless in Westchester," said Fr. Richard Kunz, president of the Grace Church Community Center which provides homeless shelters for men and women, a lunch program and a summer camp for homeless children among other services.

Club president Eric Louis, a senior, said, "I've been involved in community service through the Boy Scouts and as a member of Grace Church; this just felt natural to do this and even though it's not really the same as being homeless, it gives us the opportunity to get the experience they go through every day and help to raise money to help them out."

Midnight Run is an organization made up of volunteers who travel to New York City to provide food and clothing to the homeless on the street. "I was living on the street in New York City when one night someone came up to me and asked if I wanted some food and if I needed some clothes," said Dale Williams as he spoke to the group of students who gathered in the school media center for a few minutes.

Williams, now the executive director of Midnight Run said that it's important for everyone who goes out on a run has at least one conversation with someone who will be spending that night in a shelter or on the street.

"I remember being hungry and I remember being cold," he said. "It might get cold tonight but I'm talking about days of below freezing temperatures, using old drapes as a blanket. I remember being dirty. Really dirty, and I remember how bad I smelled. I remember being too scared to sleep, sometimes for days and I remember being lonely," he told them.

He then thanked the students for their efforts and support as he accepted half the proceeds from the event from club vice-president Robert Maida, the other half went to the GCCC.

The forecast for the overnight was temperatures in the low 30s and rain.

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