The problem of bedlessness might not be well-known in Colorado Springs, but that’s something that Denny Butts, president of the Colorado Springs chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, intends to change. According to Butts, 2 to 3 percent of children in El Paso County go to sleep at night without a bed to call their own. It’s a statistic that translates to thousands of children in the Pikes Peak region who must sleep on floors, air mattresses, couches or in their parents’ bed.
“We always say that people think that bedlessness isn’t a real word, but it’s a real problem,” says Butts.
The lack of a safe, stationary space for children to rest is not merely about comfort or convenience. Bedlessness has a profound impact on children, and the lack of sleep that it often causes can result in emotional, behavioral and academic issues.
“A good night’s sleep is really important to helping kids wake up well-rested,” says Butts. “It affects everything from schoolwork and learning ability to self-confidence and security.”
Butts launched the Colorado Springs chapter of SHP 2½ years ago after catching an episode about the nonprofit on a Facebook series titled Paying It Forward. Host Mike Rowe traveled the country highlighting the good works of inspiring people, including Sleep in Heavenly Peace founder Luke Mickelson. Mickelson launched the organization from his garage in 2012 after learning about the high number of kids who go to sleep without a bed at night.
Butts says that bedlessness impacts children at all socioeconomic levels and that it’s not indicative of neglect or bad parenting. Some families have encountered economic hardship while others have experienced a sudden disaster, like a house fire. Some simply struggle to save the funds required to purchase a bed. A quality mattress, solid frame and comfortable bedding can quickly add up in cost, not to mention the expense and challenges of having those items transported and assembled.
Volunteers build SHP beds from the ground up on organized build days. During a bed build, they divide assembly into stations and groups put together their own assigned sections of the bed. Butts says a community build can produce as many as 40 beds that SHP then delivers to kids complete with a mattress and new bedding.
The support in Colorado Springs is deeply meaningful to Butts. The organization is 100 percent volunteer-led, with no salaried staff, including Butts. They receive help from college students, volunteer groups and even past bed recipients who just want to pay the help they received forward.
“It’s a very community-oriented organization,” says Butts. “Part of our goal is not only to help kids, but to get the community involved in helping these kids. We want to bring people together.”
Witnessing the joy on a child’s face when they receive their bed is inspiring. For some recipients, it is the first time they’ve ever had their own bed.
“I always tell people it’s great when you go out and build beds and then you deliver and see those kids’ faces. They’re just so excited to make their bed and crawl inside. You know that they’re going to do better in life.”