By Chantelle Olson
If you were on the north end of campus on Thursday, September 10th , you may have noticed teams of enthusiastic students careening around the college lane in beds on wheels. Teams of five were cheered on by a group of over 100 other students as they competed in time trials for undying glory and the chance to race their bed of choice in the 2009 Open Door Bed Race the following Saturday. The 19th, race day, dawned slightly overcast, but with live bands and the Camrose Spirals there to entertain, as well as a delicious pulled-pork BBQ, spirits ran high. Six beds of a total eleven were manned by Augustana students/staff. With themes like Survivor and names like “the Dust Bunnies”, with costumes to match, it was a fine feathered frenzy for the whole family. Our school gave a good showing, taking home the prize for Best Decorated (the Dust Bunnies).
The time trials on September 10th were part of an effort spearheaded by the Learning & Beyond office to drum up enthusiasm and support for The Open Door within our school community. The annual Open Door Bed Race, held on September 19th this year, functions as the main fundraiser for the organization, which reaches out to the youth and young adults of Camrose.
The all-student team from Augustana, the Highlanders, won the race with their pink bed. The Offsiders, another Augustana student team won second place. Students were also on the teams: Superdupers, Survivors, Dust Bunnies, and the Couch Surfers (with Learning & Beyond staff: Candice Tremblay, Ryan Mason, Leslie Lindballe, and Danielle Hachey).
The event raises money to continue providing supportive housing for at-risk youth in the community. The organization rents eight rooms in the Gardner College residence building where youth who come to The Open Door can spend the night free of cost. But as we students know all too well, nothing in this world is truly free. It costs approximately fifty dollars a night to provide this service, and The Open Door relies heavily on donations to make their work possible.
Organizers at the Open Door were eager for increased involvement from Augustana students, especially since the youth that they help are generally between the ages of 16 and 24. Randal Nickel, director of The Open Door, came out on Thursday night to speak to students attending the time trials about what they do and their role in the Camrose community. In a phone conversation with me the following Wednesday morning, he was extremely enthusiastic about student involvement in the fundraiser, commenting: “I’m really excited to see people helping people their own age.” Nickel places great emphasis on the peer connection between Augustana students and the young people he sees every day at The Open Door.
Last year, three students helped with the youth employment program at The Open Door as part of Augustana Campus’ Community Service Learning (CSL). Part of experiential learning, CSL places students in community organizations, such as non-profit organizations, schools, social-service agencies, or municipalities. Students in CSL-designated courses complete a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer work.
Racing decked-out beds through a mall parking lot may not be what you envision when you think of a typical fundraiser, but Nickel says they race beds to raise awareness in the community. “People ask us, why do you race beds? And then we can tell them about the supportive housing program and the need in our community for this organization. We are filling a vacancy in these student’s lives.” The idea is that the quirkier the event, the easier it is for people to remember the reason for it.
As of September 22, funds raised through the 2009 Bed Race total over $7500, and money is still coming in. However as Sam Backus at the Open Door points out, to run the supportive housing program alone over a six-month period costs approximately $12,000. And there are other programs that require support as well. Thanks to a number of sponsors from the community, none of the money raised will go towards the expense of putting on the event itself.
For more information about The Open Door, located on the Main Floor of the Gateway Centre, 4825 51 Street, Camrose, please call 780.679.6803 or visit their website.