Service–one of the five core values at Out-of-Door–is integral to the foundation of our School’s commitment to community. This month, ODA partnered with the national nonprofit organization Blankets of Hope (BoH) in a schoolwide service learning initiative to demonstrate kindness, empathy, and hope to the homeless population in Sarasota through the donation of 875 blankets to our local community.
The BoH program consists of three parts: fundraising to purchase blankets, participation in the Kindness Workshop, and donating the Blankets of Hope to local shelters. To raise funds to purchase blankets, students at the Lower School collected money during a January coin drive in their effort to help be a part of “a positive Change.” At the Uihlein Campus, students choosing to donate to BoH earned a “Dress Down Day.” On both campuses, students participated in the 30-minute BoH Kindness Workshop.
The workshop began with a video presentation, asking participants to imagine their lives without the safety and security of a place to call home. They were asked to imagine the many challenges this would present in daily life–including protection from the weather, how to clean their clothes, how to apply for a job without a home address, and more– to help them empathize and understand the difficulties faced by people who don’t have a stable place to come home to each day. The hands-on element of the workshop - writing a letter of hope and encouragement - was a particularly meaningful experience for many of the ODA students.
“I like doing nice things to help others,” said Rebecca Aguilera ’24. “I enjoy helping people and encouraging them, so it wasn’t hard to write the letter and share a positive and encouraging message. It feels good when you help someone through the challenges they have.”
Freshman Marty Gomien said the experience was informative and would be beneficial for all students in schools across the country. “It’s good for kids to understand what is going on in the world—programs like this, and others, are important to help raise awareness about the bigger issues in the world.”
The combined fundraising efforts of both campuses allowed the purchase of 875 blankets. These blankets, paired with heartfelt letters of inspiration and positivity written by ODA students and faculty, will be delivered to area organizations including Resurrection House, the Salvation Army, and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office homeless outreach team who will distribute them to those in need.