Students Camp Out to Help Homeless Kids

Tents and handmade banner

Two tents support a handmade banner used by members of UNC’s Black Student Alliance to solicit donations of holiday presents for homeless children and increase awareness of the situation of homeless children and and their families. Related: Video of Operation Hibernation with comments from participants. Photo and video by Katie Owston.

The UNC community’s spirit of giving and sharing, especially during the holiday season, was amply evident recently when 30 students from the Black Student Alliance camped out overnight on campus to collect donations of holiday presents for homeless children and raise awareness of homelessness, particularly among children.

Dubbed “Operation Hibernation,” the students’ simulated homelessness on Doubenmier Field began at sunset the Friday before Thanksgiving and lasted until 3 p.m. the next day. Although they slept in tents instead of cardboard boxes, the students endured the cold with multiple layers of clothes and blankets instead of sleeping bags.

The effort was spearheaded by BreOnna Tindall, BSA’s community development chair, and one of several students on the campout who know what it’s like to need some help.

Tindall said she remembers vividly how thankful she and her two brothers were as children to get donated presents one Christmas after several years without any because her mother couldn’t afford them.

Although her mother always stressed that the holiday season was about time spent together as a family, and being thankful for whatever they had, no matter how meager, Tindall couldn’t help feeling good about finally getting some presents.

“That Christmas allowed us a break from the harsh financial reality we were faced with everyday,” Tindall said. “We never had the opportunity to thank those people who made us feel so necessary and worth it, as they were anonymous donors. However, once my family was in the position to give back, we have taken every opportunity to serve our community.”

At the end of their campout on Saturday, a day when the temperature never exceeded the freezing mark, the students gratefully gathered up the donations of toys, clothes and non-perishable food items that children can enjoy this holiday season despite their financial struggles.

“Young adults this age that are willing to sacrifice and take time for somebody else is a huge statement,” observed 28-year Greeley resident Pat Eddy, who was among the community members who donated items. "They did a great thing."

- Fiza Johari