OGDEN -- Spending a night in a box was on 10th-grader Kiley Matthews' bucket list.
Now she can scratch that off.
She and about 17 other Girl Scouts spent Friday night sleeping outside in cardboard boxes just big enough for them, their blankets and animal-shaped pillows. The sleepover was meant to show them firsthand what it's like to be one of Utah's thousands of homeless. There were 14,351 people who were homeless throughout the state as of the annual head count in January.
"You can read about it in a book or the newspaper," but they can understand it much better if they experience it for themselves, said Dolores O'Donnell, the Wasatch service director for the Girl Scouts of Utah and one of the few adults on hand.
The annual head count found that Weber County had the second-highest number in the state, trailing only Salt Lake, with 1,203 homeless people. Davis and Box Elder counties were far below that figure, with 650 and 125, respectively. Morgan County had none.
The scouts set up their small colony of boxes on the playground outside Ascension Lutheran Church at 1100 North Washington Blvd. Most of the boxes, which the girls found on their own before Friday night, were decorated with hand-drawn pictures and shout-outs to friends.
The adults confiscated the girls' cellphones at 7:30 p.m. and they were allowed to go inside the church only when they needed to use the restroom.
The organizers also realized that they might have to let the girls inside if the night became too cold and wet. The scouts didn't plan their event to coincide with the expected arrival of the season's first widespread snowstorm, but that's how it worked out.
"I've always wondered what the homeless do in the winter," said ninth-grader Alyssa Snyder shortly before the first raindrops fell.
The scouts were unphased once the snow arrived, singing "Jingle Bell Rock" together around their fire. Snow was getting inside a few boxes, so they set up an awning to help protect them.
Thousands of other children don't have to wonder. The State Office of Education reported this year that there is one homeless school-age child for every 50 students in Utah. The report shows that 41 percent of homeless youth remain that way for at least a year.
The goal of the night was also to draw attention to homelessness in Utah and help them out. The scouts were accepting donations of warm coats, jackets, hats and gloves, as well as blankets, sleeping bags, canned food and hygiene items for the St. Anne's Center.
"We take so much of our stuff for granted," Matthews said.
And like the homeless who can find dinner at shelters, the girls were also provided with a sack dinner and a cup of hot chocolate.