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Spotsylvania schools preparing for second annual Camp Out, Rock Out, Knock Out Homelessness event this month
A paper bear for each of the homeless Spotsylvania students on display
FILE/TOM ROTHENBERG FOR THE FREE LANCE STAR
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By PAMELA GOULD
Spotsylvania School Board member Ray Lora was the first to register for next weekend's second annual Camp Out, Rock Out, Knock Out Homelessness event.
He didn't hesitate to volunteer to spend 24 hours camped on the grounds of Massaponax High School on Sept. 8-9 to raise awareness of the growing problem of homelessness among county students.
"This is a good cause and I am happy to support it," he said.
He also camped out during the inaugural event, sleeping in a tent as a drenching rain fell last October.
"That night, I was miserable," he said. "Then I remembered, for me, this is make-believe, but for other people, it is reality."
The number of homeless students in Spotsylvania schools has grown over the past three years, from 297 in 2009-10, to 483 in 2010-11, to 628 in 2011-12, school social worker Michelle Patton said.
This year, the trend appears to be continuing. As of early last week, 209 homeless students were enrolled compared to about 180 at the same time last year, Patton said.
And Patton said the needs of the families involved are increasing.
She didn't know whether that was because of the economy or some other issue, but she had noticed that more families are without vehicles, adding to their challenges.
Most of the county's homeless students are living with their families in motels, doubling up in housing with other families or living in local shelters.
"This is not the kids on the side of the road," Patton said.
This year's Camp Out, Rock Out, Knock Out Homelessness event at Massaponax High School. runs from 10 a.m. next Saturday through 10 a.m. Sunday.
During that 24-hour period, people can drop off donations for the homeless. They may also take part in family-oriented games, check out vendor booths and listen to music from local bands and individuals.
This year, organizers have added 1-mile and half-mile fun runs for children ages 5 to 12. The races will begin on the school's track at 7 a.m. on Saturday.
Schools Superintendent Scott Baker is expected to take part in the event's kickoff, and all Spotsylvania School Board members are supporting the effort, Patton said.
Last year, the community gave generously, donating enough supplies to nearly fill four box trucks, Patton said.
Apart from gathering supplies, the goal of the 24-hour program is to raise awareness of the issue and its impact on local students.
"If we cannot meet their basic needs," Patton said, "we cannot expect them to learn."
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
The second annual Camp Out, Rock Out, Knock Out Homelessness event will be held from 10 a.m. Sept. 8 through 10 a.m. Sept. 9 at Massaponax High School.
The event includes games, music and a children's fun run at 7 a.m. on Sept. 8 to raise awareness of homelessness among Spotsylvania County's students. Register online at spotsyschools.us for the fun run and to camp out.
Donations will be accepted during the event at Massaponax High School and in the parking lot of Wal-Mart at Southpoint.
The following items are needed:
undergarments for all ages
socks for all ages
feminine hygiene products
dish soap and household cleaning supplies.