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A cold night outdoors in Hinsdale

This is the scene in the Huffmans' backyard in Hinsdale Sunday morning, after about 30 girls woke up from sleeping overnight in these cardboard boxes and headed to a campfire to warm up. Photo courtesy of Mardi Huffman  Nov. 3, 2013
After moving around a bit and sitting by the fire Sunday morning, Piper Huffman of Hinsdale (left) and Emily Condon (right) decided to keep warm in their box before heading inside.. Photo courtesy of Mardi Huffman  Nov. 3, 2013
When they woke about 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the girls participating in Sleep Out Satruday in a Hinsdale backyard were reluctant to leave their boxes for the cool morning air. Photo courtesy of Mardi Huffman  Nov. 3, 2013

Mardi Huffman, with seven other adult chaperones, hosted about 30 girls for Sleep Out Saturday outside her Hinsdale house Saturday.

“We hosted it last year as well, “ Huffman said.

The girls, mostly 12-year-olds, know each other from Christ Church of Oak Brook.

The overnight sleepout raises awareness of homelessness in the suburbs and raises money for Bridge Communities transitional housing program. It includes a rally Saturday evening in Glen Ellyn, where formerly homeless people who have gotten back on their feet through the Bridge program tell their stories.

Nancy Bergstrom, who, with her 15-year-old and 9-year-old daughters, slept outside Hinsdale United Methodist Church, said hearing the true accounts help the children realize the reality of the problem.

“Bridge does a really great job with the program,” Bergstrom of Burr Ridge said.

Similar sleep outs were held in 25 other DuPage County communities.

Outside Huffman’s home in Hinsdale, the girls paired off two by two to share a cardboard box of about 10 cubic feet. The ground was wet this year, so the group laid tarps on the ground beneath the boxes.

“We have very comfortable homes,” Huffman said. “This brings awareness to our children that there are people who are not as comfortable and who have a hard time in life.”

After attending the rally, the girls cooked over an outdoor fire, but once the fire went out, “they were just cold,” said Huffman, who, like the other adults, slept in a tent.

Huffman’s daughter, Pipe, a seventh-grader at Clarendon Hills Middle School, said, “I tried to go to sleep as best as I could, but it was only a little bit of space (in the box to lie down). Crowding together, however, had its advantage.

“The extra body heat really helped,” said Piper, who slept in a sleeping bag. “Luckily, I bundled up.”

Not all the girls dressed as warmly. During the night, Piper heard one girl crying, “I’m freezing.” But she stuck it out and made it through the night, Piper said.

“I would definitely say it’s hard,” Piper said. “But it makes you see more of the problems in your community.”

People started waking up about 5:30 a.m. After packing up and cleaning up, Piper knows she could have gone back to bed in her warm bedroom, but she didn’t.

“I thought that might be cheating.”

Bergstrom and her older daughter, Morgan, have done Bridge’s sleep out since Morgan was 9.

As an adult leader, Bergstrom has the option of sleeping in her car.

“It’s not a heck of a lot more comfortable. You’re breathing the cold air all night.”

Bridge specifically schedules the event for November, when the weather is usually chilly, as opposed to the summer, so it won’t feel just like a normal campout, Bergstrom said. People who are homeless have to find a place to sleep year round.

“It’s one night of discomfort for us when we have so many comforts.”

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