Students BUILDING hope
for the less FORTunate

Our Purpose

Wrap Up America connects students with the needs of those fighting homeless in their local community. Wrap Up America is not an organization, we are an idea that has been adopted by student leaders across the country and brought to life by campus communities. Our idea is simple, students begin by providing a specific tangible need, blankets, and then we encourage their ongoing awareness and commitment to supporting the homeless in whatever community they call home. Blankets are collected through annual Fort Building Contests put on at Universities across the country by inspired student leaders.

Why Blankets?

Blankets are a band-aid. They provide much needed comfort and resiliency, but don’t ultimately cure an ill.

Wrap Up America does not believe we are in a position to cure homelessness, we believe we are the connectivity to those who can. There are professional organizations all across the country, like The Salvation Army Louisville, The Hope Center and 1Matters that we are fortunate to partner with on distribution of blankets, but more importantly distribution of passion and compassion.

Blankets are a way for students across the country to make a real and immediate impact that we hope will be a gateway to their ongoing involvement in advocacy for those fighting homelessness.

We are proud to have collected and delivered over 100,000 blankets to those needing warmth across the United States. We are even more proud of the thousands of students who have collected those blankets while showing a commitment to advocacy for those fighting homelessness.

Fort Building Contests

Think back to your youngest memory and it might just be building a blanket fort with friends or siblings.

Wrap Up America’s Fort Building Contest is competitive philanthropic nostalgia.

The Fort Building Contest is put on by a University organization that sponsors the event and they have full control over all of the creative process. This leads to plenty of pillow fights, fashion shows, dance and eat-offs and an overall festive event.

Students compete in teams to collect the most blankets and build the most unique, structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing blanket forts using the blankets they were able to collect in the weeks leading up the event. These blankets are immediately set-up for distribution to local homeless shelter.

Events typically include a featured speaker who has battled homelessness locally and an organization who can share opportunities for students to get further involved in local homelessness advocacy.

Student Leaders

Each year, at Universities across the country, student leaders are responsible for bringing to life Fort Building Contests that engage and educate hundreds of students and collect thousands of blankets for those fighting homelessness in their local community.

Here are some of our current and past student leaders and their reason for stepping up:

"This year, we donated a number of blankets to an event in the community that helps those in need by providing them with different services and a number of resources. Many UT students were able to volunteer at the event and see exactly how Wrap Up Toledo can impact those in need. I believe that is the best part about Wrap Up: creating a connection between students and our community."
Anna L. Crisp
University of Toledo
College of Health Science and Human Service
Student Member - UT Board of Trustees

"Wrap Up America is an opportunity to work with a social justice issue hands-on and make measurable change. Too many of our neighbors are without a home or a blanket and we have the responsibility and resources to provide those basic necessities, as well as love, to those. It's about more than a blanket; it's about showing someone that you care and love them unconditionally.
Wrap Up is a step in the right direction to achieve equity as well as equality in the United States. Seeing our chapter grow at UK has easily been one of the most rewarding things I've ever been a part of!"
Lindsey Steller
University of Kentucky
Former Wrap Up Kentucky Chair

"Wrap Up America has helped our community both by providing thousands of blankets to those in need, as well as teaching young men and women like myself valuable life lessons. Being involved with Wrap Up has taught me about compassion, generosity, event planning, organization, and the power of coming together with others to reach a common goal. Any community would be lucky to benefit from such a program."
Matt Schmahl
University of Louisville- College of Business '18

Our History

Wrap Up America’s history can be seen through our logo.

In 1993, Harlan Joelson was running a mayoral campaign for his father in Toledo, OH. While putting up campaign signs in downtown Toledo, Harlan parked and got out of his truck to put up a JOELSON FOR MAYOR sign. When he got out of his truck, he was met by a stark naked man in a box who yelled at him, “Hey man, why are you parking in front of my house”.

Harlan didn’t say anything to the man, but he got back in his truck and drove off. He couldn’t shake the thought that this man was living in the city where he lived, worked, played and was raising his children. The first action he could think to take was to get the man a blanket to cover him up. He went to a local store, got the blanket and took it back to the man, never exchanging a word.

After that run-in, Harlan went to his friends, family and co-workers and asked if they had any used blankets lying around because he wanted to take them to a local homeless shelter. He collected about 100 blankets and thought it was a one-time mitzvah (good deed).

The next year, those same friends, family and co-workers came back to Harlan with more blankets asking if he could get them to people who needed them. He could and he did.

Over the next 18 years, Harlan would go on to collect and deliver over 75,000 blankets to those fighting homelessness in Toledo, OH.

Harlan’s singular act of kindness and the development of such a powerful movement from one single blanket provides a constant reminder to all donors and students that one blanket and one mitzvah can go so, so far for a person, a community and a cause.