The Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity camped out for 30 consecutive hours at the Bell Tower Thursday to collect money and items such as clothing for the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness.
This year, the fraternity members collected approximately $530 in dollar bills, a few hundred dollars in change and more than 300 articles of clothing as part of its third-annual Camp-out to End Homelessness. During last year’s camp-out, the fraternity raised $1,539 total.
Participating members set up two tents in the grass outside Beury Hall across from the Bell Tower. They started asking for donations at 7 a.m. Thursday and continued until 1 p.m. Friday. It was more than 24 hours of combined asking for donations and gaining personal insight on what it’s like to experience homelessness in Philadelphia.
“It’s crucial in a time like this when everyday families are struggling [because of the failing economy],” said ATO President Matthew Burris, a senior biochemistry major. He said everyone should do their part to help individuals who may have fallen on hard times. “It’s beneficial for everyone to do their part for those less fortunate,” said Mathew Burris.
Other members said they thought the experience was challenging, but worth it. They said it helped to raise awareness that homelessness is a serious issue.
The most difficult part of the camp-out for the fraternity brothers seemed to be trying to catch some shut-eye.
“I couldn’t sleep for more than thirty minutes at a time,” said James Hesky, a senior public relations major and member of the fraternity.
Others had trouble dealing with cold temperatures and the windy weather.
“It was so cold,” said ATO Vice President John Kerechek, a senior criminal justice major, citing that he only got two or three hours of sleep during the event. “You’d sleep for a little bit, but the wind would blow and you’d realize how cold you were.”
“The worst part was you got so tired and cold,” said Hesky.
Participants tried to stay warm by getting up and walking, drinking hot beverages, going inside places like 7-Eleven for 5-minute breaks and layering their clothing.
Campus Police also checked in with them throughout the night.
There are some members who have camped out for the cause multiple times.
“It was about the third time I did it. I try and understand what homeless people go through on a regular basis,” said senior biochemistry major Kevin Todd. “You definitely don’t get used to being out in the cold that’s for sure.”
Hesky added, “When you get tired you just want the warm bed and mattress you’re used to.”
Some said this experience made them appreciate what homeless people endure, that one night wasn’t the same thing.
“I can’t understand exactly what it’s like,” said Hesky. “But I gained a great appreciation for it.”
Megan McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.