Neptune City borough council president Brian Thomas and Neptune resident Alex Daigle at Memorial Park in Neptune City during their Sleep Out fundraiser.
By DENISE HERSCHEL
This year, 4.2 million kids will be homeless in America with an increasing number of young people facing this condition in countless communities. When he heard this startling statistic, Neptune City Borough Council President Brian Thomas decided he wanted to make others aware of this dire situation.
He decided to align himself with Covenant House at its Asbury Park location and most recently its Sleep Out event which took place this month. Called “One Purpose, One Night,” the event included the cities of Asbury Park, Edison, and Newark along with other communities and groups from across the state. Thomas and his friend Alexander Daigle of Neptune slept out at Memorial Park in Neptune City as part of the Jersey Shore All-Nighters team.
“We had a really great team with an amazing group of people including our team captain Frank Luna from Bradley Beach and my friend Alex Daigle who did the Sleep Out with me,” Thomas said. “During National Sleep Out for Covenant House, we raised funds specifically for Covenant House New Jersey and their Asbury Park organization. Together, our team raised over $20,000 which ended up being the top team in New Jersey. All the teams combined, over $193,000 was raised that evening.”
According to Thomas, Covenant House was started in New York City by a priest who wanted to help city kids who were often left homeless for various reasons and too scared to stay in shelters. The large non-profit organization’s goal is to provide safe housing and holistic care to youth ages 12 – 24 experiencing homelessness and who are survivors of human trafficking. Covenant House was officially incorporated in 1972, and offers services including healthcare, educational support/GED preparation/college scholarships, job readiness and workforce development programs, substance use treatment, mental health services and transitional living programs.
“Teens and kids are sometimes a forgotten group when talking about homelessness. I think it is hard for people to comprehend that in such a great nation of opportunity, children still face enormous challenges,” Thomas said.
When asked why he became involved with Covenant House, Thomas replied, “When I was growing up I had a lot of struggles facing me. But thankfully, I was pushed by my mother to continue fighting no matter the odds. Not everyone has that support system so if I can be that support for kids I am happy to do so.”
On the evening of the Sleep Out Thomas said that he and Daigle arrived at Memorial Park in Neptune City around 7:30 p.m. He had his sleeping bag and pillow ready to go for the night as well as a stack of playing cards.
“We had a great group of people stop by throughout the night to offer encouragement which was really amazing. We fell asleep around 2 a.m. on the concrete floor, under the pavilion. We stayed at the park until 6 a.m.and managed to get about two hours of sleep. .The wind and the rain picked up around 4 am. We did get a bit of energy the following day with a lot of it knowing that the money we helped raise was going to an amazing cause.”
Thomas said they are already discussing another Sleep Out event.
“We are hoping to get more people involved from the community to raise awareness and donations,” he said. “By raising awareness, we can offer a chance at a better life in the future for these kids. I truly thank everyone who did donate. Without their generosity, this would not have been a success.”