Camping Out in the Cold to Help Local Kids Stay Warm

The unforgiving cold wind, the endless traffic noise and the impossibly hard ground claimed its first victim after just a few hours.

“I thought he was going to his car to grab something, but he just hopped in and drove off,” said Ryan Kennedy, V.P. of Marketing at Harvey, Hanna & Associates, and organizer of The Operation: Warm Newport Camp Out for Kids. “We joked about it when he came back the next day. He apologized and brought us pizza, so that kind of made up for it. He said ‘I just could not do it. It was so loud and cold.’”

They laughed off the man’s “escape,” but it drove home the point of this unique awareness and fundraising event. Over three very chilly days and two cold nights in mid-November, volunteers from commercial developer Harvey, Hanna & Associates and the Delaware KIDS Fund, camped out in the heart of their home city, Newport.

“I think we learned that we take so much for granted. You know, something as simple as my bed,” Kennedy said. “Sleeping on the cold, hard ground, that is what people in our community are doing all the time. There is a population that is struggling every single day, and I cannot imagine, when you get into January and February, how they deal with that. It is sad and it puts everything in perspective.”

The team at Harvey, Hanna had organized many different community-oriented fundraisers, 5K fun runs and golf tournaments in the past, but were looking to create something with more immediate impact in the community. The campout made visible the often-invisible challenges of poverty and homelessness in their community.

“We thought it would be a good idea to camp out in November and tough it out right there in the middle of Newport,” Kennedy said, adding that over 70% of Newport’s elementary-school-aged children live at or below the poverty line. “As local business owners and community leaders, that status is unacceptable.”

The campsite was on a downtown lot of land, bound by three roads, busy with industrial traffic at all hours, day and night. Twenty-four campers signed up to brave the elements, with their fees donated to fund an Operation Warm program in Newport. In total, Harvey, Hanna met its campaign goal, raising enough money to buy more than 1,600 new winter coats for local children in need. A number of local businesses, including nearby James Street Tavern, supported the campout with donations of food and supplies.

“A lot of people would stop by out of confusion. They would ask ‘What is going on here? What is this?’” Kennedy said. “We would explain it to them, and once they learned what was going on, they would donate money on the spot or come back the next day. We were really surprised by that.”

The campers also made a very direct and unforgettable connection to those in need in the area.

“A number of people who were living on the streets were curious about what was going on and stopped by,” Kennedy said. “We welcomed them with open arms. We asked them to come get warm, sit by the fire, and we would cook them some hot dogs and hamburgers and talk for a while.”

Harvey, Hanna & Associates – Established in 1997, HHA is a full-service Commercial Real Estate Redevelopment Company featuring 3,000,000 square feet of prime location commercial, retail, and industrial real estate in Delaware.

 Operation Warm seeks to inspire hope and empower communities by manufacturing and distributing high-quality, new winter coats children in need throughout the US. The nonprofit works with organizations at a community-level, assisting local advocates to help children receive coats in their own backyard. Operation Warm’s vision is that every child wearing a new winter coat is warm, feels valued, and is empowered to get to school and gain an education.

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