Sacred Heart students sleep out to raise money for Habitat for Humanity


Sacred Heart students participated in a Sleep Out in October to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.

There was nothing traditional about this camp-out — cardboard boxes for shelters, a DJ spinning tunes, a dance instructor teaching Salsa and relay races. The campsite, outside a café, was not very remote either. But the Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Sleep Out created some good old fun while raising money to help families without their own adequate shelters.

Conducted by Sacred Heart University’s HFH chapter in an overnight period from 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, to 6 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, the annual fall event was held on a patio adjacent to the school’s 63’s dining hall on its Fairfield campus. About 100 people — a mix of students, alumni, advisers and graduate students — participated in the activity.

All participants, along with some 300 chapter members, were required to send out 10 donation request letters to friends and family, with a mission of raising money for the local affiliate, HFH of Coastal Fairfield County.

“Fund-raising is a requirement of chapter membership,” said Taylor Filanowski, the campus chapter’s student vice president. “We do that through this event, but also all year with projects like collecting money and canned food at Stop & Shop, selling clothing and developing restaurant partnerships. But donation letters are key and are distributed constantly.”

Every spring break, 100 campus chapter members get the opportunity to travel to select destinations to help HFH on the ground. After a goal of $10,000 is raised for the Eastern Fairfield County affiliate, additional money collected by the campus chapter are used to cover travel expenses for the trips. Five destinations, with 20 participants assigned to each location, are determined.

This coming spring, the students will head to Washington, West Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and Texas from March 2 to 9. Participants are on-site for the entire break.

“Participants on the trips will do everything from renovation to new construction, guided by team leaders with contractor experience,” Filanowski said.

Besides the activities mentioned, the Sleep Out event also included Zumba classes, a campfire, Habitat Olympics with a nail hammering contest, outdoor movies, seek-and-find challenges, hot chocolate, a live acoustic guitar performance by local talent and alumnus Bill Haug and even a Habitat client as a guest speaker. Organizers also collected canned food and sold long-sleeved T-shirts to raise money.

“I was exposed to Habitat through a pre-fall program, which sparked my initial interest,” Filanowski said. “I became a general chapter member, went on a trip (to Benton, Ark.), held a position as the publicity chair and then was elected VP. It’s a great feeling to help and work alongside clients. We bond and it results in an amazing sense of accomplishment.”

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