CHAMPAIGN — You’ll still be able to sleep outside in a box for the 10th annual One Winter Night, but thanks to some pandemic-minded safety changes, your box won’t necessarily need to be in downtown Champaign.
Set for Feb. 5, 2021, this major fundraiser for C-U at Home will be spread out downtown, and also offer participants the opportunity to sleep outside in boxes in their own yards or participate virtually.
“I think that will be one of the pluses from having to change up the event a little bit,” said Rob Dalhaus III, executive director of C-U at Home. “I think the reach will be increased a little bit. I think folks who may not have been able to participate will be able to now.”
C-U at Home has set a goal of $450,000 for the event to support a larger budget that now includes the expenses of operating a year-round emergency shelter for homeless men and women that’s already getting plenty of use.
The shelter averaged 57 men and nine women a night in October and has averaged 51 men and eight women a night in November, Dalhaus said.
Participants in One Winter Night are asked to spend a night in refrigerator boxes to raise pledges to support not only the shelters but also C-U at Home’s other services for the homeless.
Given the need for more space between participants for the upcoming event, boxes in downtown Champaign will be spread out on Neil, Main, Walnut and Chester streets, Dalhaus said.
The organization is also connecting with churches and businesses to use their parking lots for the event so smaller groups can participate together and still spread out, he said.
“We are trying to keep with the spirit of the event as much as possible because we know this is a homeless simulation and an advocacy event, but we also want to give people a chance to participate during this COVID time and we understand we may not be able to have hundreds of boxes downtown as we have in the past,” he said.
Other changes planned for the upcoming event will be the availability to connect with people in their boxes on the night of the event via Zoom and remote options for listening to music and speakers remotely on Zoom and C-U at Home’s YouTube channel, Dalhaus said.
The event’s headquarters will also be moving downtown — to The Venue CU at 51 E. Main St., C.
While One Winter Night was at 1 percent of its fundraising goal at mid-week, Dalhaus said there are still months remaining to reach the goal.
“The fact that we have 50 people involved and almost 20 business sponsors already committed, that’s really good,” he said.
Two local businesses, Champaign Asphalt and Duce Construction, have teamed up on a matching contribution of up to $25,000 for money raised by Dec. 1, Dalhaus said.
He’s not worried about reaching the goal or needing to close down the shelters for lack of funding because the community has always been supportive, he said.
“The community has provided,” Dalhaus said. “God has always pro- vided.”