Camping for a good cause
What started as friends Norm Hall and Tim Juba relying on a fire in a barrel to stay warm as they raised money, has expanded into seven guys collecting donations from a tent equipped with heaters and a couch.
“I remember going home after the first year, thinking ‘I ain’t ever doing that again,'” Juba recalls.
But 14 years later, he’s still dedicating three mid-winter days to collect donations for the Faribault County Food Shelf and Western Faribault County Toy Drive.
It’s all part of the KBEW/Darling International “You Can Make a Difference” camp out, which took place in the Juba’s Super Valu parking lot Thursday through Saturday.
“We were just looking for an idea to benefit the community because the need was there,” Hall says, explaining why he wanted to start the camp out.
Conditions may have upgraded a bit as the years went by, but regardless of how many heat lamps they had, the men still sacrificed comfortable homes and hot showers in order to help local organizations this holiday season. But even though they were the ones who slept with the snowflakes, they don’t credit themselves for all that the event achieved.
“If it wasn’t for the community, it’s just guys hanging out in a parking lot,” Hall says. “It’s a success because of the community.”
Not even an hour had passed since the camp out officially started at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, and locals were already driving up to the tent to drop off food, toys and checks.
One couple made a generous contribution of $500, explaining that their grandchildren are too old for toys, so they were donating the money they would have otherwise spent on toys during Christmas.
And, individuals weren’t the only ones donating. Area businesses showed their support, and even students contributed — including 11-year-old Lucas Kramer who braved the cold along with the rest of the crew when he joined the camp out late Thursday.
As a first-grader, after winning the “You Can Make a Difference” essay contest about why it’s important to support the food shelf and toy drive, Kramer’s parents took him to Juba’s to see the camp out.
“We went home that night and he said, ‘I really want to do that. I think that’s really cool,'” says Amy Kramer, Lucas’ mom. “He kept insisting on doing it, so we started doing it.”
The next year he joined the campers, just without spending the night in the cold. Now a sixth-grader, Lucas has stayed overnight at the event for the past three years — though being there through the night doesn’t always mean getting to sleep. Amy says after last year’s event, Lucas told her there was a little too much snoring going on.
And lack of a good night’s rest seems to be a recurring theme since the event began.
“Tim snored the whole first year — I got no sleep,” Hall jokes.
But when Hall, Juba, Kramer, Tom Warmka, Joe Salisbury, Collin Salisbury and Matt Hall took part in the camp out this year, sleeping wasn’t their main concern anyway. Instead, it was to collect enough money, food and toys to support those in need.
“A kid not having a toy at Christmas — that’s pretty tough,” Hall says.
The group didn’t have a goal in mind before the event because they didn’t want to give the impression that if a specific amount wasn’t reached, the camp out wouldn’t be considered a success. Because, in reality, any amount was a good amount.
“Every donation is better than what you started with,” Hall says.