TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Students and staff in the Ken-Ton school district have been sleeping out in cardboard boxes for almost forty years, and program organizers said it’s all about creating a culture of service.

This is year 36 for Ken-Ton’s SleepOut program. Usually, students and staff would sleep outside in boxes to understand the struggles of the homeless. But with a below-zero wind chill this year, it was light on students.

“It started as a sleep-out, it’s stayed a sleep-out,” said longtime organizer Stephen Ash. “We certainly have more awareness that we do the sleep-out. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen increased participation.”

Stephen Ash has been involved in the sleepout since it began decades ago. With frigid temperatures, organizers will spend time around the fire, but will not be sleeping outside.

He just hopes more students will get involved down the road.

“The more the community can get involved, the more we can show kids at an early age that there are people in need in their own community and maybe get them involved in an activity that will help those people,” Ash added.

Though turnout was down, donations poured in from the community. Food and monetary donations support the Ken-Ton Closet and Ken-Ton Family Support Center.

“They have the best soul, they have the best core and that’s really what Ken-Ton is all about,” said Superintendent Sabatino Cimato, Ken-Ton UFSD.

To learn more and make a donation, click here.

New on

Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.