Sherry and Jay Gruden address the crowd at the packed Bungalow Lakehouse in Sterling during a Mobile Hope fundraiser.
Mobile Hope teamed up with the Washington Redskins and other community partners to raise more than $40,000 for homeless young people Aug. 25.
The first annual Harmonizing for Hope featured karaoke competition with an all-star line-up of judges, an auction, and singing performances by several Redskins players. Former Redskin Chris Cooley and current Quarterback Kirk Cousins were among the group devoting their evening to raising awareness for the cause.
Redskins Coach Jay Gruden and his wife, Sherry Gruden, heard of the Leesburg-based nonprofit and immediately wanted to help however they could. Sherry Gruden said she was shocked to learn how many teenagers in Loudoun are homeless or precariously housed, given the county’s wealthy reputation.
Last year, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) and nonprofits identified 1,600 homeless, precariously housed and at-risk youths in the county, suggesting the traditional definitions may still be too narrow.
“They’re helping kids at an age they get overlooked a lot. They want to succeed and be successful,” Sherry Gruden said. “This could be one of my son’s friend’s at school.”
Mobile Hope serves people 24 and younger who do not have a fixed, adequate nighttime address and work to provide the support these young people need to become successful. The non-profit operates under the McKinney Vento definition of homelessness: individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, and children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.
This includes youths who may not technically be homeless, but may be couch surfing; living day to day with friends or family on a couch or floor or living in a car or hotel.
“It takes a village to help and there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Mobile Hope CEO and founder Donna Fortier told the Tribune at a back-to-school event. Fortier and Mobile Hope’s Director of Philanthropy Bonnie Inman approached the Grudens about an event, and together, they planned the karaoke fundraiser.
“It’s nice to help out but this is really just the first step,” Jay Gruden said.
Sherry Gruden said her goal is to see Mobile Hope raise enough funds to eventually find a house to run as a shelter for children and young adults to learn life skills and be safe. She and Jay also are happy to raise awareness for Mobile Hope through events like this.
“Every new person who learns about Mobile Hope becomes an ambassador for Mobile Hope,” Fortier said. “And it’s hard to believe Loudoun County, the richest county in the country actually has homeless youth, but they do … Every dollar that you spend and raise for us goes directly to our kids.”