Mountain Outreach (MO), a ministry hosted by University of the Cumberlands, is teaming up with the B Squad Project, a local non-profit, to help make Christmas magical for underprivileged children in the community.
Each year since 2018, the B Squad identifies children who do not have beds to sleep in and provides them with brand-new beds at Christmastime. This year, MO was able to provide funds and labor for 30 beds for the B Squad – a $3,600 donation. Construction on the beds is already underway.
The bed giveaway is part of an initiative the B Squad calls “Gutsy Gunner’s Sweet Dreams,” named in honor of Gunner Bowlin, a local boy. Even though Gunner has total intestinal aganglionosis Hirschsprung’s disease and short bowel syndrome, he is always smiling and bringing joy to those around him.
Carol Smith, Gunner’s mom, said, “The Sweet Dreams event is our favorite! The look on those children’s faces and the appreciation you see from the parents is priceless. Gunner loves the bed giveaway! He tells everyone he meets about it. Last year, he even helped paint some of the beds.”
Gunner spent four months in the hospital after he was born due to his health conditions. During that time, the community rallied around his family, praying for them and providing them with whatever support they needed. When the opportunity came for them to be part of the B Squad’s efforts, Smith knew “without a doubt” that she wanted to “give back to the community that helped my family so much.”
Shannon Barman, who created the B Squad Project in 2018, said, “The first year we did it, people said we were crazy. Nobody knew there was a need for beds. The second year, we had a list of kids waiting for us.”
The beds have “Psalm 139:13-14” branded on them in memory of Barman’s grandmother, a devout Christian. The verses say, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Barman said that kind of message would have been just what her grandmother wanted kids to know.
Along with the new beds, the B Squad includes a new mattress, sheets, pillows, blankets, and other presents, all of which they give to the children just before Christmas.
This is the third year the B Squad has hosted Gutsy Gunner’s Sweet Dreams. Including the 30 beds this year, the non-profit will have given away 110 beds to Whitley County children.
In 2018, Gutsy Gunner’s Sweet Dreams blessed 25 children with new beds, paying more than $300 for each bed to be constructed. Unable to continue affording that expense, the B Squad approached MO in 2019 to see if they could help. The student volunteers at MO researched, designed, and developed a construction plan for a sturdy twin bed that could be assembled easily and bunked if needed. And each bed would be approximately one-fourth of the 2018 cost. These savings allowed the B Squad to more than double the number of children they were able to give beds to in 2019. This year, not only is MO building the beds, but they are funding them as well.
Rocky Brown, Director of MO, said, “We are very thankful to the Lord Jesus, that He has provided a way for us to build and fund these beds for the B Squad Project. For us, it is another avenue to help folks in need in our community and share the love of God with them. Additionally, in the process, we get to work with our work-study students and teach them how to provide the absolute best quality work we can.”
Barman is immensely grateful to MO for their donation, calling it a “godsend.”
“I cannot express my gratitude for MO. They have been amazing,” Barman said. “The beds are a brand-new design from last year, and we are absolutely in love with it. They added a bookshelf to the side so kids can step up into the beds easily if they’re bunked. We love it.”
Construction has already begun on the beds, starting in mid-October when Barman got a call from a family whose house had been condemned. The family needed to move out, but their two children would have nothing to sleep on. Barman called up Brown and explained the situation. Before long, MO had two beds built and ready to go.
Barman mentioned that it’s been exceptionally tough to bring in donations for any projects this year, since most of the B Squad’s fundraising efforts were going to be in-person events. Due to the pandemic, those events were all cancelled one by one.
“Some of our children and friends have health issues, so even though we wanted to be able to raise funds, we had to be smart for our families and for our community and play it safe,” Barman said. “This year has been nuts, but we’re still trying to make things work. We want to help kids in our area.”
MO is supplying the beds, which is a huge help to the B Squad; however, the non-profit still needs mattresses for the beds and new pillows and bedding. They have created a wish list on Amazon from which people can purchase items. (View the wish list at https://amzn.to/3oycWNV.) Anyone can also donate to the program by using the PayPal link www.paypal.me/thebsquadproject or sending donations to P.O. box 43 in Williamsburg, Kentucky.