Coldest Night of the Year
by Laureen F. Guenther
The Coldest Night of the Year will take place across Canada on Saturday, Feb 22, 2020. That’s not a weather prediction, but the announcement of an event that raises funds for agencies serving people who experience homelessness. The annual, family-friendly walk-a-thon is held the third Saturday evening in February, traditionally considered the coldest night of the year.
This year, the Coldest Night of the Year is happening in 145 locations in 136 communities, in all ten provinces and the Northwest Territories.
A total of over 6,000 walkers, ranging from toddlers to seniors, will meet at their respective locations at 4 pm, and by 4:15, they’ll set out on their choice of a designated 2 km, 5 km, or 10 km route. Each route starts and ends at the same location, is supported by volunteer staff and vehicles and has a rest and refreshment stop along the way.
The walkers walk at dusk on a cold February evening so they can experience a slice of the cold weather challenges that people who experience homelessness face all day, every day. After the walk, walkers and volunteers are served a light meal, similar to meals served at shelters and support agencies.
Many volunteers support the walkers and organizers, before and during the event, helping with registration, welcome, serving food, parking and photography. They also work as route marshals and rest stop hosts.
This year’s Canada-wide fundraising goal is $6,000,000, and on January 21, when this story went to press, walkers had raised just over $1,000,000. The funds raised at each location go to the agency or agencies hosting the walk at that location. There’ll be 14 walks in Alberta, as far south as Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Taber, and as far north as Fort McMurray, 31 walks from Victoria and Cranbrook to Fort St. John, will take place in British Columbia.
The agencies hosting the walks are as diverse as the communities and individuals they serve, but they have a common purpose: serving people experiencing homelessness. Most communities host a single walk, and most walks are hosted by a single agency. Some communities, like Calgary, Victoria and Surrey, host multiple walks. And some walks are hosted jointly by two or more agencies.
In Calgary, for instance, Mustard Seed, Salvation Army and Youth Unlimited each host their own walk. KAIROS Calgary and Feed the Hungry are hosting a walk jointly.
In Port Alberni, there’ll be just one walk, organized by Alberni Women’s Services. In Terrace, Ksan House Society is hosting a walk. In Comox Valley, a joint walk will be hosted by Comox Valley Transition Services and Dawn to Dawn.
To learn more about Coldest Night of the Year, in the country or your community, or to walk, volunteer or donate, go to cnoy.org.
Connect with the following organizations
Abbotsford & Chilliwack
Salvation Army Gateway of Hope
Cloverdale Community Kitchen
Surrey WhalleySurrey Homelessness and
Burnaby Community Services, Society to end homelessness in Burnaby
City Reach Care Society
Chimo Community Services
Sources Community Resources Society