Would I sleep out again???

A friend and Covenant House donor asked me this question. At 3 AM, while getting a few minutes of warmth inside the safe walls of the Cisco cafeteria, I would have said no. I was close to calling it quits. It was 26°F degrees outside, and I supposedly had a “summer” sleeping bag. I didn’t know they came in different seasons.

Thanks to Rachael Chambers, Global Program Lead, I was participating in my very first Sleep Out.

Jenn and April at the Sleep Out.Rachael and I bonded right away when she became my manager and expressed her love of animals. The true love and joy she shows every day is infectious. When she introduced me to what Covenant House is all about, I was truly moved. Many homeless youths are on their own because they are in bad situations, unaccepted by their families, or have aged out of foster care. Covenant House is there to support those who want help — those who want to support themselves, be educated, and find jobs. Covenant House helps them achieve those goals! The Sleep Out is an annual event where Cisconians worldwide give up their beds for one night to raise funds and create awareness for Covenant House and those benefitting from its programs.

For many years, I struggled to work two jobs myself and still lived paycheck to paycheck. It was then I swore I would give back when I had the opportunity to do so. I donated to several organizations over the years but never felt like I was living up to that promise I made myself. After years of feeling Rachael’s enthusiasm about this organization and seeing how impactful the Sleep Out had been for many fellow Cisconians, I decided I needed to do more than just donate.

I consider myself a bit of an introvert, so doing something like this — not knowing anyone but the two coworkers I call friends, April, Tammy, and Tammy’s son, Jake, who did this with me — was scary. But because of Rachael’s endless dedication to the cause and spreading the word throughout the company, I had the courage to finally sleep out myself.

Tracy Dunn, RTP Team Cisco Captain, inspired and motivated me throughout the fundraising process with her words of encouragement in our Webex room. When I was proud to hit my goal of raising $1000, she said, “Great! Now raise $2,000!” Ha! I ended up raising close to $1,600. Not quite $2,000, but I am very thankful for all those who contributed. Tracy also inspired the 105 registered sleeper-member RTP team to raise $138,720.

My evening of the Sleep Out began at 5 PM, welcoming and checking in registered sleepers as they arrived. Tracy was one of the first people I met that night, and even though it was my first time meeting her, I hugged her like she was an old friend. From 9-11 PM, we broke into groups and listened to the deeply personal stories of those who flourished from their Covenant House experiences. Many still work, volunteer, and/or advocate for what Covenant House has done for them and are now paying it forward for others at risk. It was so emotional to experience them telling their stories firsthand. Before venturing out into the cold, with just our clothes and sleeping bags to keep us warm, we joined together for a beautiful candlelight ceremony honoring all those we were there to support and raise awareness for.

During the night, I spent my 30-minute warm-up inside our Cisco building, fully aware that I could go home, but knowing how many people counted on my dedication and supported me, I decided to go back outside and see it through. I think I got an hour of sleep the whole night. We woke up with ice on us.

That put a lot of things in perspective for me. Many homeless youths don’t even have the advantage of a “summer” sleeping bag.

When we met for our morning reflection, it was amazing to hear everyone’s experiences and how we stuck it out, even though we had frost covering us. Although we struggled to get through the bitterly cold night, we all knew we had warm homes to go to in a few hours, and that was a privilege. When we wanted to give up, the reason we were doing this gave us the strength to continue.

I still give the guy who had shorts on and made it through the night the most credit. ?

So, would I sleep out again??? Absolutely yes, but with a warmer sleeping bag!

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Jenn Hawkins

Client Operations Delivery Analyst