Virginia Wesleyan students commended the Shack-A-Thon event that was held on Batten lawn Tuesday, Nov. 14, through Thursday, Nov. 16. The event sought to raise awareness of homelessness by having students build shacks from scratch and sleep in them for a couple of nights.
The campus shelter managers expressed their excitement that the event was successful. “It was more than I expected. I expected at least four [shacks], but I think there were at least up to 10, so it was a good turnout,” senior and shelter manager Michelle Yates said. They also acknowledged the great bonding opportunity. Yates, who is a thrower on the track and field team, got the chance to get to know her teammates a little better. She said getting the freshmen involved gave her a chance to learn about their preferences.
Senior Cassetty Howerin also commented on the bonding she got to do through Shack-A-Thon. “I got closer to people who stayed in my shack. I mean I say ‘hi’ to them on an everyday basis, but I’ve never had a full on conversation, but with it [the event] I got hours’ worth of good conversations with people I normally just say ‘hi’ to,” Howerin said.
The construction of the shacks had many students embracing their inner creativity and inner resourcefulness. Riley Pitchford, who participated in Shack-A-Thon with his fraternity, Sigma Nu, discussed how he and his fraternity brothers had to scavenge for materials. “We didn’t 100 percent know how we were going to do it until the last minute, so we had to quickly rush and gather supplies from local contractors and construction companies. We just kind of thought we had to be resourceful, which was part of the idea,” Pitchford said.
He attested to the fact that being resourceful is how the homeless must survive. Howerin agreed. “Making the shack was kind of difficult because we had ideas but obviously we couldn’t just go get plywood and buy it or anything because that defeats the purpose,” Howerin said.
Another aspect of the event that tested students was having to sleep in the shacks, especially taking into consideration the weather, which on each day had a low in the 40s.
“The first night was extremely cold. We had about three brothers sleeping in it the first night. I slept in it with about five other people the next night, and it was kind of cramped and it was a little cold but we toughed it out and survived,” Pitchford said.
“Staying in the shack was kind of cool, it was kind of cold, our shack kept the cold out a little bit, but it was cool we got to experience what it would actually be like to be homeless for a night. Kind of modified because obviously we’re on campus so we have access to some of the stuff we need,” Howerin said.
Shack-A-thon succeeded at its purpose of raising awareness of homelessness. The participants of the event remarked on how the event opened their eyes on the issue.
“If you’re just walking around anywhere you could see a homeless person; they don’t have anything. So this taught me to open my eyes, and even if you just have an extra blanket or an extra coat you’re not using, give it to someone who can use it,” Yates said.
“It definitely changed a little bit, I always viewed it as a struggling part of our community. Now when I pass someone on the streets and I see that they’re homeless I’m always willing to offer to buy them food,” Howerin said.
The event yielded positive reactions from those who participated. Many students hope that the university continues on with raising awareness for homelessness and holds the event again next year.
“I definitely think it is something the school should continue to do because it does raise awareness for homelessness but it also, for the organizations, brings them all together with the bonding opportunity. It’s a big thing happening on campus that you’re going to want to participate in. I think everyone involved had fun,” Pitchford said.