Home > Our World > News > News - Recent Headlines
Youth trades warm bed to raise funds for homeless


Peter Larson, 14, sleeps inside a cardboard box on the deck of his
Plymouth, Minn., home to raise funds for the area's homeless.
UMNS photos by Sumiko Moots.

A UMNS Feature
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Feb. 6, 2009

“Hi, I’m Peter Larson, I’ve been sleeping out in a cardboard box since Nov. 15. I’m trying to raise $71,000.”

Most people would find that a hard request to refuse, coming from a 14-year-old who sleeps in the cold Minnesota winter so homeless people will not have to sleep outside all year round.


Larson stays warm inside an old sleeping bag made
by his grandmother.
   

In the eight years that he has been sleeping out, Larson has doubled his fundraising goal each year. Last year, his goal was to raise $30,000, and he ended up raising $50,000. This year, his goal is to help 125 families, which means raising more than $71,000.

“I sleep out each year to raise money for the homeless because if I don’t, who will?” he said.

Larson, a Boy Scout and member of Messiah United Methodist Church in Plymouth, Minn., said he braves the cold because that is the hardest time for the homeless to be without shelter.

“If I did it in the summer, I don’t think I would get as much support as I could because it wouldn’t be as hard,” he said. “The coldest it has ever gotten was around negative 15 a couple years back. This year, the coldest it got was like negative 9.9.”

He’s only had one night when he’s wanted to get out of the box as quickly as possible because of the cold, he says. He stays warm by wearing sweats, socks and a stocking cap, and snuggling down in a sleeping bag that his grandmother made two generations ago. Usually, getting up is hard because his sleeping bag is nice and warm, he says.

God’s child

In 2008, Larson received a Good Samaritan Award, the top youth award from the Commission on United Methodist Men, for sleeping outside in a cardboard box for 40 to 45 nights every Christmas season to raise money to combat homelessness.

“Honestly, this is all Peter,” said his father, Bruce. “This was not something that we talked to him into. … He wants to go out. There’s never been a night where I’ve said, ‘Pete, you have to go outside and sleep in your box.’ He just goes to bed like he would normally go. Granted, in the morning, he gets up like any teenager, where I have to shake the box two or three times to get him out.”

J oni Larson is proud of her son.


Larson solicits pledges from
restaurant patrons.
      

“He’s a very capable young man and can do just about anything he wants to do. Where so oftentimes we think about ourselves, that’s not who he is. This is who God made this child to be.”

The money Larson raises goes to Interfaith Outreach Community Partners, a local organization that helps find housing for those in need in the community.

Jill Kohler, director of the organization, said Peter is their “poster child.”

“We are just thrilled to be able to create more affordable housing opportunities, and the only way we can do that is through the donations we raise for sleep outs. Peter this year has sort of become our figurehead, our spearhead. He’s our poster child of what one person can do.”

While Peter was being honored at a Minnesota Timberwolves basketball game in late December, a woman in the stands heard his story and made a $40,000 donation to the interfaith program.

Two local restaurants sponsor Peter, allowing him to solicit donations from diners. They also split the proceeds from sales during the time he’s there.

An inspiration

The Rev. Dick Ellis, associate pastor at Messiah, said Peter “has been touched by the homeless.”

“I think that when you have someone like Peter, of any age, it inspires everyone, and Peter is the one who is inspiring his pastors, church, other young people like himself and hopefully other people around the country and world, so that we see the poor in our midst and then do something about it. That’s the message of Christ for us.”

“I think Peter’s a great encouragement and a great model to other people, both young and old, of what one person can do to make a difference in a world that really needs it,” said Theresa Hunter, director of youth ministry at Messiah United Methodist Church.

Peter is matter-of-fact about what he does.

“At some point in your life, I think everyone gets called … whether it’s when you’re 5 or when you’re 50 or when you’re 1 or when you’re 100,” he said. “At some point, you’ll get called. It’s whether or not you’re listening.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn. Additional reporting for this story was provided by Sumiko Moots, a correspondent based in Albuquerque, N.M.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Video Story

Good Samaritan Scout

Related Video

Hurricane Help from Scouts

Related Articles

Profile: Peter Larson

Minnesota UMC scout wins UM Men award

New York Boy Scout pulls girl from pool to safety

Maryland Girl Scout raises $9,000 for homeless families

Syracuse Scout troop offers answers to youth in difficult setting

Resources

Messiah United Methodist Church

General Commission on United Methodist Men

The Good Samaritan Award

Minnesota Annual Conference

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW

Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.