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Broadway stars sleep rough to help homeless

NEW YORK -- The kids at the Covenant House homeless shelter are always looking for somebody to lean on. They got it one summer night last year, along with a lullaby sung by some of Broadway's best.

More than 50 Broadway artists broke into a serenade of “Lean On Me” while spending the night on the street outside the Manhattan shelter in solidarity with the 350 homeless youth living inside.

“Of course we had to break into song when you put a bunch of us together. We can't not sing,” said Rory O'Malley, the Tony Award-nominated former star of “The Book of Mormon.” The windows lit up and the kids inside soon joined them in song.

“That's the power of music and the power of art. We were able to tell them that we're here for them, and it was an awesome, awesome moment, something that I'll always remember.”

On Sunday, some 70 Broadway figures will join the second Sleep Out to raise money to provide food, clothing and shelter for homeless youth. Participants have already pulled in more than US$177,000 as of Friday morning, beating last year's fundraising total of US$136,000.

“It gets kids thinking, 'Maybe I'm not broken,'” said Kevin Ryan, president and CEO of Covenant House International. “It lifts kids up thinking that all these people who don't even know them think enough about them to spend the night on concrete.”

The event has been spearheaded by two Broadway veterans — Capathia Jenkins, a star of “Newsies,” and Stephanie J. Block, who has appeared in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “9 to 5.”

Participants on Sunday will be introduced to the homeless youth — many single mothers and others kicked out for being gay — and then break up into groups to share stories and answer questions from stage stars.

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