Twenty-one-year-old Reece Rogers of Wichita would do almost anything to get to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia — even if it took ingenuity and a little elbow grease.
Along with a GoFundMe page and fundraising through friends and family, Rogers did yard work for neighbors to help with the exorbitant cost of travel and lodging for the convention, which starts Monday.
The costs of the trip — plane tickets upwards of $500 and the selected hotel, the Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown at around $650 a night — forced the University of Kansas English student to start fundraising May 1, the day after he was chosen as an alternate delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders from the 4th Congressional District.
To save money, Rogers is taking a daylong Amtrak trip instead of flying. He will share the hotel room with other Kansas delegates.
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“It’s a mixture of Sanders and Clinton delegates,” he said, “But they’re all really good people, so it won’t be an issue.”
Carrie New, a 46-year-old Sanders delegate from Goddard, wants to save money as often as possible along the way. She and three other delegates from the area planned to drive from Topeka to Philadelphia and stay in a hostel on the night of their arrival.
“I knew from the get-go I wasn’t staying in the hotel,” she said. “My mortgage is $800 a month, so I’m not paying triple that for a week.”
Both Rogers and New were listed as “adoptable delegates” through the Adopt-a-Bernie site, allowing for people across the country to donate to their GoFundMe accounts.
While New is renting a house through Airbnb for the week, she and fellow delegate Sarah Parrish from Merriam have spots reserved at a female-only hostel. She said she heard of rental agreements being canceled by Philadelphia residents who fear protesters linked to the convention.
As per Democratic Party tradition, the delegates are staying at a union hotel, but that shouldn’t account for the extreme prices, New said.
“I’d be OK with it if they were tripling the hotel staff’s salaries for the week, but not because they’re just making money off us,” she added.
Kansas Democratic Party Chair Lee Kinch of Derby said while he’s paying his own way, the party is setting up “scholarship” opportunities for some of the delegates.
Despite costs and the measures taken to keep them low, both New and Rogers are excited to participate in the process.
“At the end of the convention,” Rogers said, “I will get on my long, long train ride back to Kansas and think, ‘What do I do now? What can I do next?’”