The shelters, constructed from cardboard boxes, were meant to symbolize the conditions people without homes survive on a daily basis.
More than 20 people came together to build an intricate model of Jonah’s whale, which took about a week. The finished whale was roomy enough to accommodate nine children in the mouth and three in the tail, including Marx John Pena, 12.
“I like being here and helping with our box,” he said. “I really like spending the night and helping out.”
Other boxes had themes inspired by video games, animals and even cereal.
Abbigail Hickman, 10, and her best friend, Sadie Fisher, 9, put four days into creating a Minecraft-themed box.
“I’m doing this because I thought it would be a fun way to raise money for charity,” Abbigail said. “This is my first year doing this. I really think it’s cool.”
Another camper, Kiersten Stevens, had a box designed as a beach shack, built from materials donated by local businesses.
“I am here because I want to help the McHenry House and people in need,” the 13-year-old said. “It’s also a chance to spend time with my friends. I enjoy seeing the other boxes.”
Each child who participated committed to raising a minimum of $50 before the overnight stay.
During the event, judges awarded $50 prizes for each of the three best decorated boxes.
Amanda Garcia, Valeria Diaz and Jose Diaz won one of the prizes with their horse-drawn wagon train depicting social classes.
“This feels good, to help out,” said Amanda, 15. “I’ve been coming here since I was 4. I’ve known the people at McHenry House since I was young. My mom was the one that introduced me to this, and each year I have fun doing this event.”
Claire and Abby Hamer’s cardboard castle for the homeless won another top prize, and Ian Braten and Thomas Lamadrid won the third with their “Duck Dynasty” box, inspired by the reality TV show on A&E. Robert Chao won an award for raising the most money.
Since 1987, McHenry House has helped more than 2,000 families and 6,500 children transition from homelessness to self sufficiency. The shelter also offers finance classes, résumé writing help and tutoring to those who stay at the shelter.
“This fundraiser is about kids helping other kids,” said Susan Jessee, co-chairwoman of Kids in a Box. “The kids that go to school here locally are going to school with some of these kids that they are helping, and they don’t even know it. So many kids today are affected by homelessness.”
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