These guys might be crazy, but…
I have joked with my competing news reporter, Norm Hall, about why he came up with such a big long name for his food shelf fundraiser event.
It is very difficult to fit “KBEW Radio/Darling International You Can Make A Difference Campout” all in one line in a headline.
All joking aside, this somewhat crazy idea has grown over the years into something pretty special.
Norm Hall talked Tim Juba into joining him 18 years ago in his idea to camp out and try to get people to stop and ask them what they were up to.
And then ask those who stop to donate to the food shelf.
Hall needed a spot that was highly visible and had a lot of traffic going by. He thought the corner of Juba’s SuperValu parking lot at Seventh and Main was ideal.
So he not only asked Tim Juba if he could do it there, he talked him into joining him.
That was 18 years ago.
The first year of the camp out was just those two guys, Norm and Tim, with a rather wimpy little tent, two chairs, and a 55-gallon drum where they burned wood all night trying to stay warm. And they each had their own personal van to put the toys and food items into.
It didn’t work real well, Norm says, adding that Tim didn’t sleep a wink for the two days. Hall, however, says he can sleep anywhere, anytime, so he didn’t have any trouble.
While they nearly froze to death, they actually did have people stopping by and making some donations. Two nice men even brought some additional wood they could burn in the barrel.
Then Joe Salisbury stopped by and asked them if they were going to do this crazy thing again. Tim said no, Norm said maybe.
Salisbury said he’d bring them some better items to help them stay warm the next year and he did. A nice big tent, carpeting to insulate against the cold concrete and some proper propane heaters.
Not only that, he joined up with them and has been there ever since.
Norm admits they might have given up without Joe’s help in keeping them from freezing.
The camp out itself had grown over the years. Now they have a much larger tent, trailers to put the items in and some additional volunteers, including Norm and Joe’s sons.
Other folks have come to the camp out, some to stay overnight, others just to visit for a while.
The best thing, though, are the people of this community, Norm says.
Some drive up with a bag of food items, some have toys and many of them drop off cash or checks to help support the food shelf and/or the toy drive.
Some just drive by and hand the campers a hundred dollar bill and thank them for what they are doing to help others.
That is what it is all about. The last couple of years the guys at the camp out have raised just a bit under $20,000 each year.
In total, over the 18 years, they have raised an incredible $206,000.
Not bad for two guys in a parking lot. But, the guys don’t take a lot of credit, saying what they do is just to facilitate a way for the community to help others who really need a hand.
Norm will get emotional when he talks about it, especially about the elementary kids who raise money and bring toys each year to school to give to other kids who need it.
He says he knows there are a lot of kids who are less fortunate than others, and the BEA students are excited to help those who need it.
So, with the annual camp out date looming (it is this Thursday through Saturday noon) the boys are ready to put on the long underwear and head back outside for a couple of days.
Everyone, myself included, has always kidded Norm that we know the camp out is coming because it gets cold and snowy that week. This year we have to blame someone else for the wintry weather, because it already hit three weeks ago.
How much longer will these guys do this? They are not sure.
But, they have been asked by the local food shelf for at least a two year notice if they ever decide to quit doing it. That is because the money raised by this band of crazy campers has become one of the food shelf’s major sources of income of for the year.
So, don’t forget to stop by the KBEW/Darling International You Can Make A Difference Campout (Whew! That’s a mouthful!) and make a difference with your donation.
Maybe this year, with your help, they will crack that $20,000 plateau.
Something to be truly thankful for.