Superior, WI (Northland's NewsCenter) - As the saying goes, "don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes."
Even though walking wasn't the objective, per se, gaining a better understanding of homelessness in the Northland was exactly what participants in "A Night Without a Home" intended to do.
"It's all about awareness. They get stories about what it's like to be homeless here," said Scott Yeazle, Director of the Twin Ports Action Coalition.
The event, organized by Tom Wondolkowski, has been a part of Douglas County tradition since 1985.
In 2007 organizers moved the event from mid–December to November to coincide with National Homeless Week, and it's now the kickoff event that launches Homeless Awareness Week in Superior.
Wondolkowski says the event has two simple missions: one— collect donations for the homeless community.
"Bedding, blankets, sheets, pillowcases, washcloths, towels, toiletries, toothbrushes," said Wondolkowski, listing some of the many highly sought after donations.
The other mission: raising communal awareness for event participants through experience. All Northlanders are invited to take part in the 24 hour camp out--from family to friends, to the very population which the event hopes to serve.
"And what's so key here is we have an opportunity for the community to interact with people that they maybe wouldn't normally have a chance to meet. And you can see, I have a lot of kids out here today. They get a real experience," said Wondolkowski.
As night turned to day and the sun's golden rays rose over the shores of Lake Superior to greet the camp, spirits still ran high, though for many, sleep was an old friend that never came.
Tired or not, however, many involved claimed the success of the 2011 "Night Without a Home" was palpable.
"This was our best year ever. Our donations last year were way down. This year they're way up. The weather's decent; people are more apt to stop," said Wondolkowski, proudly.
And for those who braved the elements to be a part of it, the experience was one that will remain close to their hearts for years to come.
Julie Gaare, a 7th grader who participated in the event, had this to say: "It's just nice to see the people who actually do care to give money and the people who will come and donate food. God bless them. It's great that they care about people who are in our community that need help."