Wheeling SleepOut Was a Success
Note: This was submitted to The Intelligencer and News-Register newspaper and published on Nov. 21, 2021.
To view a wrap-up video of the 11th annual Wheeling SleepOut, please go to https://youtu.be/cgBgPfKelGw
The Ohio Valley community raised more than $42,000 for the 11th annual Wheeling SleepOut on Friday, Nov. 5. The event proceeds are directed to helping youth ages 17-21 with housing, life skills and resources through the Transitional Living Program at Youth Services System Inc. (YSS).
The event helps people like Tyren, a former YSS client who spent his adolescence in the state’s custody and learned tools to become an independent adult while living at the YSS Tuel Transitional Training Center group home in New Martinsville. He learned basic skills such as cooking and learning to drive, as well as how to get a job and get into college. He said the other youth and the staff became his family. “From the CEO of YSS down to the daily staff members at the center, they really care,” Tyren said. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Marshall University, studied abroad in Germany and Colombia, taught himself to code and now codes for the West Virginia State Police in the Internet Crimes Against Children unit.
Youth Services System Inc. started the first Transitional Living Program in West Virginia in 1981. For 40 years, we have come alongside youth who have aged out of the foster care system, youth who exited the juvenile justice system and youth who were facing homelessness for a variety of reasons, including needing to escape from a dangerous or unhealthy home life.
The Tuel Center houses eight youth; the McCrary Center apartment building on Wheeling Island has 11 apartments; and we also serve youth who are living on their own in our communities.
In fiscal year 2021, we served 121 youth, a 20% increase over the previous fiscal year.
This age group needs the support of caring adults to thrive and become their best selves. Our staff help these disconnected youth work toward physical and mental wellness, education and employment goals, and eventually successful independent living.
The Wheeling SleepOut brings together a cross-section of the community who recognize the challenges these youth face and want to help make a positive difference. From a Girl Scout troop to local businesses to nonprofits who serve local people experiencing homelessness, people came out Nov. 5 in sub-freezing temperatures to the Miracle League Field at the JB Chambers I-470 Youth Sports Complex in Wheeling. They built sturdy and creative structures out of cardboard following the theme of “Oh, the places you’ll go!” to raise awareness about youth homelessness. A few teams slept overnight in their boxes to better understand the hardship thousands in the U.S. face every night.
The event is what’s known as a peer-to-peer fundraiser, meaning individual participants ask friends and family for donations. Some create teams to maximize their fundraising abilities. This year, The Zieggy Tribe team from The Ziegenfelder Co., with Matt Porter as captain, won the top fundraiser award by raising over $4,500.
Winners of this year’s box contest included the Street MOMs, Project HOPE street medicine, East Coast Metals and the Tuel Center residents.
We have so many people to thank. We of course are grateful to all the participants and donors. We want to thank our entertainers who provided live music at the field: The New Age Adenas, Gage Joseph and Robert J. Gaudio, as well as those who recorded videos, Adrian Niles and Sarah Hays. Thank you to Doug Boston and his crew for providing the sound equipment and emcee. Thank you to all the YSS staff, families and friends who volunteered. Thanks to Charlie Schlegel for feeding us dinner. Thanks to Eli White and the Eagle Riders for providing breakfast. Thanks to the Fun-Raiser who brought games. Thank you to all the restaurants and local businesses who provided gift cards for prizes. Thank you to local media for spreading the word about the event.
Last but not least, thank you to our sponsors: Wilhelm Farms, Wayne and Carolyn Smith, Northwood Health Systems, The Ziegenfelder Co., Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, Ebbert Farm Market, WesBanco, Wheeling Board of Realtors, Wheeling Kiwanis and GraduatingGrief.com.
All of you made this event possible. All of you are making a difference in the lives of youth. We are thankful to all of you for supporting our mission “to create better futures for children, families and our community.”
The Youth Services System Family