Helping Homeless Youths

Helping Homeless Youths

Editor, News-Register:

The outpouring of community support for the eighth annual Wheeling SleepOut on Nov. 2 makes it clear: Businesses and individuals in our communities are convinced, as we are, that it is vital to save our young people from the often tragic consequences of homelessness.

The Wheeling SleepOut benefits the Youth Services System Inc. Transitional Living Program. Through this program, we provide shelter, teach independent living skills and, most importantly, build relationships with youth ages 17-21 who have nowhere else to go. The reasons for their circumstances range from aging out of foster care to being forced out of homes that are places of abuse, poverty, addiction and despair. The money raised through the Wheeling SleepOut helps strengthen the safety net, keeping young people from taking desperate measures, such as trading sexual favors simply so they have a place to rest their heads.

The Wheeling SleepOut takes place at the Miracle League Field at the J.B. Chambers Sports Complex near I-470 every November, which is National Runaway Prevention Month. Teams and individuals raise money and then have the option of building cardboard structures in which they spend the night. This year’s theme was Shine a Light. The creativity and ingenuity on display for the Boxed-In Design competition is always remarkable. Judges Robert Gaudio, David Gaudio, Chad Thalman, Brenda Danehart and David Gessler had their work cut out for them. Best of Show went to The Wickers team, which created a lighthouse that even had a rotating light on top of the tower. Participants also raised awareness, posting statistics and facts about homeless and runaway youth and resources available for them locally and online.

What has amazed us year after year is the outpouring of support from young children who have been inspired by their parents, teachers and faith leaders to join in this rescue mission. Since the third year, a child has won the grand prize every year for raising the most money. This year was no different, with Rumer Beazel winning for the second year in a row.

We want to thank all of our participants, corporate sponsors and volunteers who helped make this the best year yet, raising more than $66,000 for youth in transition. Our lead corporate sponsor this year was AEP, along with Wayne and Carolyn Smith, BB&T West Virginia Foundation, the RiteAid Foundation-KidCents, WesBanco Insurance Services, Highmark of West Virginia, Northwood Health Systems, the Wheeling Board of Realtors, Wheeling Odd Fellow Lodge No. 9 IOOF, Belmont Savings Bank, Uniglobe-Ohio Valley Travel, Faith Ranch and Goodwill.

Thank you to Charlie Schlegel of Ye Olde Alpha, who prepared and provided a delicious, hot, late-night meal for participants for the eighth year; Eli White and the Elm Grove Eagle Riders who prepared and served breakfast; Wheeling Fire Department on hand to provide EMS services if needed; Selfie Snaps photo booth; Josh Blakemore, who provided sound and DJ services; Don Chamberlain, who led games for the kids; Ohio Valley Batman; members of the 501st Garrison Corellia and Rebel Legion who came as Star Wars characters; and musicians Robert Gaudio, the New Age Adenas, and Ezra Hamilton and Friends, who provided the live soundtrack for the evening.

It is always heartening to be reminded that our neighbors in the Ohio Valley are willing to align themselves with Youth Services’ mission “to create better futures for children, families, and our community.” We truly thank them for their support.

John Moses

CEO, Youth Services System, Inc.

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