Ann and Project 16:49

I’m proud to announce that today my wife Ann is in Madison, Wisconsin, to help accept the state superintendent’s Friend of Education award on behalf of Project 16:49. Ann works as the homeless student liaison for the School District of Janesville, and she and Robin Stuht — her counterpart in Beloit — have been working tirelessly over the past couple years to set up a shelter for homeless teens in Rock County. Many homeless children can enter a shelter with their family, but a large number of homeless teens don’t have that option. They’re not yet old enough to enter a shelter for adults, so they have zero places to go.

To help raise awareness about this problem, filmmaker Rubin Burgos created a documentary about three local homeless teens. He called it Sixteen Forty-Nine after the numbers of hours and minutes a child has to wait between leaving the safe haven of a school in the afternoon and returning the next morning. Ann and Robin took up that banner, naming their effort Project 16:49, and they’ve been showing this moving film all around the area to help drum up support ever since.

This pays off in all sorts of ways, not just raising funds for the shelter itself but also motivating people to chip in as best they can. Earlier this month, for instance, the staff of the Mercy Health Mall teamed up to donate backpacks full of school and personal supplies for Janesville’s homeless teens. (That’s them in the photo. Ann’s the one in the blue dress in the middle.)

Today, State Superintendent Tony Evers is recognizing Project 16:49’s efforts (along with eight others) in a ceremony at the state capitol, and Ann and Robin are there to accept the award. Read the official press release, and if you can manage it, visit the Project 16:49 website to see if there’s something you can do to help.

I spend my days entertaining people, which I love, but my wife and her friends are out there on the front lines every day, working hard to help people in the worst need. I’m glad the state superintendent stood up to recognize and endorse all their hard work.