Closed Eyes, Open Minds: Cisco ‘Sleep-Out’ Shows Solidarity with Raleigh’s Homeless

July 20, 2020

Cisco, a global provider for telecommunications and other high-end technology services and products, had already committed to focusing worldwide on combatting homelessness. A group of employees in Research Triangle Park wanted to turn an idea into action with a sleep-out on their campus to raise awareness of the homeless crisis in our community. With executive support, the team got busy organizing a campus-wide event to directly engage their coworkers in the Mission’s purpose. The team spearheading the sleep-out, led by Beth Coogan and Maria Callaghan and supported by Executive Sponsor Steve Yager, saw widespread excitement across departments, and knew that they would need to find a way for the show to go on despite the growing global emergency.

It became apparent in early 2020 that the event would need to shift to a virtual one. Undaunted, and not wanting to delay the fundraising and awareness efforts, the team switched gears and organized a sleep-out at home, encouraging employees and their families to experience homelessness in their own back yard. Over 120 employees and family members participated. There were virtual check-ins throughout the night, and a time for feedback the next morning. Participants were reminded to treat the experience seriously, and to forego activities which might turn a time for understanding into a fun, family camping trip. As a direct result of this event and campaign, an impressive $40,000 was raised through individual employees, and the Cisco Foundation donated an additional $40,000, with the funds going to Raleigh Rescue Mission and Haven House, another non-profit that serves youth in crisis.

Prior to the sleep-out, the CEOs of both organizations spoke during a widely-attended broadcast about their initiatives to serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Their data and stories resonated with the attendees.

“The numbers are alarming, especially with over 4,300 homeless children in Wake County alone” says Beth Coogan, Operations Project Specialist. “Cisco will continue to be involved, hopefully making this an annual event and staying active in other ways throughout the year. Homelessness can’t be fixed by a dollar amount alone, and we need to continue our efforts to raise awareness. We have a group of about 60 people who are committed to staying engaged, continuing these conversations.“

If you or your company would like to have an event similar to Cisco’s, Beth and Maria are happy to share their recipe for success. For more information, contact John Luckett, CEO, at or 919-986-8112.