LORAIN — Lorain High School volleyball players spent Monday night sleeping under the stars, but the girls’ camping trip was more than just a team-building exercise.
In conjunction with the varsity versus alumni volleyball game, members of the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams camped out on the high school’s soccer field to raise awareness for homelessness in the city.
The charity game and campout were part of the athletes’ service-learning project, a newer initiative in the district, according to head coach Chantille Jackson. The varsity versus alumni game Monday raised $200 for Catholic Charities — specifically the St. Elizabeth Center on Caroline Avenue — which provides year-round food and shelter for the city’s homeless.
“This year, we charged $3 at the door, $1 for students and then 100 percent of the money will profit the charity of our choice — this year was Catholic Charities,” Jackson explained. “So alongside with that, we wanted to bring some recognition and understanding with homelessness and specifically to homelessness in Lorain County and in Ohio. So the point of us doing this piece is to sleep out so that people drive by and kind of wonder what’s going on, and then we can share with them that information.”
The idea for the benefit came from a conversation Jackson had with varsity player and senior Sydney Patterson, 17, who said she was struck by the movie “Cardboard Boxer.”
“(The movie) was about this homeless man who, he was just trying to make things happen for himself, and he was just showing how desperate people can be when you don’t have anything,” Patterson said. “Basically in the movie he started fighting other homeless people and he was getting money for it … but then at the end he realized that it wasn’t good, that even though he was getting money for (fighting), it didn’t make him feel good as a person. It really touched me, it just made me more grateful for everything that I have.”
She said she talked to Jackson about the movie and wanted to bring awareness to the issue, as she began noticing how many homeless there were in her city.
“I feel like we should all try to make everything easier and just try to be helpful,” Patterson said. “If you see someone that’s homeless, at least just give them something to help — like if it’s cold outside give them a blanket or something, or something to eat possibly … because, think about it, if it was you, you would want somebody to help you.”
Alongside the coach and several chaperones, Lorain police Officer Reuben Figueroa was at the campout until about 2 a.m. While there are a number of resources available in the city, as a member of law enforcement, he said he deals with the city’s homeless on a daily basis. He said he hopes the girls gain a better understanding of what the population experiences — for instance, no mirrors, power outlets or running water — and gain empathy for those in need.
“I hope that what they take away from that is awareness and compassion,” he said. “That they have empathy, because as an officer, yes I’m law enforcement, however I always try to make sure I never let go of the empathy, I never let go of being sympathetic to people and understanding their situations because we don’t know why they’re in that situation. So I hope they leave and say ‘we don’t know why they’re in that situation, so let’s just try and treat them like people because they’re people.’”