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Published: Wednesday, 10/8/2008

Monroe bed race to awaken community to a cause

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Rev. Dean McGormley and First Presbyterian Church will host a bed race at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in downtown Monroe. The Rev. Dean McGormley and First Presbyterian Church will host a bed race at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in downtown Monroe.
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MONROE - In what promises not to be a snorer, beds will roll down the streets of downtown Monroe to raise money to ensure kids get a good night's sleep.

The bed race to support the Now I Lay Me Down program will debut Oct. 19 at the Loranger Square gazebo at Washington and First streets, near First Presbyterian Church, the sponsor of the event.

Now I Lay Me Down began in 2001 when church members learned through the community meal program that children in the community were sleeping on bare floors and that babies were put to bed in car seats and high chairs.

Through donations and volunteer labor, the program has provided more than 860 beds and cribs to babies and youngsters in Monroe County.

The church suspended taking applications for the program earlier this year after funds to buy beds, mattresses, and box springs dried up.

The Rev. Dean McGormley, co-pastor of the church and an organizer of the bed race, said an influx of donations has allowed the church to begin accepting calls for assistance, but more money is needed.

"We are on a collision course to put 150 to 175 children in beds and cribs this year," the Rev. McGormley said.

Under bed race rules, five-member teams - four bed pushers and one mattress rider - will run in heats the length of one city block on the four streets leaving the square. Teams with the best times will advance to the finals.

Racing begins at 1:30 p.m., and entries will be accepted until race time.

The cost per team is $195 or the cost that the church incurs to provide a complete bed for a needy family member.

"So, in essence, the entry fee equals the donation of a bed and bedding for a child," said Dan Batista, a volunteer in the program.

Organizers are hoping to sign up 50 teams, a field that will provide three to four hours of excitement and entertainment for the expected 1,000 to 1,500 spectators.

A local nursing home donated steel-framed hospital beds that will be used in the race. Volunteers shored up the converted beds with steel braces and outfitted the legs with rubber wheels. Mattresses were strapped to the frame to ensure a safe ride.

The Rev. McGormley said challenges have been issued to police and fire departments as well as local schools and service organizations to engage in friendly competition in the bed races. Participants are encouraged to wear costumes and outfit their bed with signs.

Members of the winning teams will receive gift certificates donated by local businesses and share a trophy that organizers hope to pass from year to year.

Sheets, quilt, blankets, and a stuffed animal are given to each boy or girl who gets a bed.

Kim Hooper, a church elder, said there have been many touching moments when a bed has been delivered to the home of a needy child. He recalled a street-tough 11-year-old boy who hugged the stuffed bear he was given and an 8-year-old girl who jumped up and down on the porch as volunteers delivered her gently used bed.

"It is very moving to see this," Mr. Hooper said. "We never thought the program would evolve into this and become so successful."

More information about the bed race and Now I Lay Me Down program is available by calling 734-242-1545 or monroefirst.org.



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