‘Coldest Night of the Year’ raises $134,797

Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

Kitchener-Waterloo residents were able to walk in the shoes of those who experience poverty and homelessness last Saturday night.

Feb. 22 was the fourth annual Coldest Night of The Year walk-a-thon campaign affiliated with the Ray of Hope Community Centre. Participants were able to walk two, five or ten kilometres to raise awareness and funds for the cause.

The Coldest Night of The Year is part of a nation-wide campaign that raised $2,194,258 across Canada. This year K-W raised $134,797 — 89 per cent of their goal of $150,000.

“It’s a fundraiser, but there is also an awareness component to it,” said Scott Brush, the event director and communications director for Ray of Hope. “Our walkers are doing either 2K, 5K or 10K in February where it’s cold and that’s a true reflection of our friends and guests that we work with.”

“They are outside, they’re walking,” Brush added.

Saturday’s event saw 535 registered walkers and over 64 volunteers. There are 63 different cities and organizations across Canada that also participated. People who donated had the option of choosing where they put their money, including toward Ray of Hope.

Brush believes that the event’s experiential component was much more powerful for those involved.

“It’s a true reflection of those living on the streets,” he said. “Having our walkers do this in February drives home the point that there are people in K-W right now who are living on the streets regardless of the temperature.”

Local councillors were also in attendance. Yvonne Fernandes of ward four expressed her passion for the issue and the City of Kitchener’s involvement.

For Fernandes, whose ward does not see a high prevalence of homelessness, she believes it is extremely important to be aware and help out with the cause.

“It signifies how we feel about our community,” she said. “Being all the way our in the suburbs I don’t see many people who are homeless or disenfranchised, whereas the councillor for ward ten would see it because he is right downtown.”

Ray of Hope Community Centre directly supported the campaign. The centre provides warm meals, shelter and a community for their guests.
Coby Kooistra, staff supervisor for Ray of Hope, explained that facilities such as theirs are vital for the community.

“I think roughly in a week we see close to 700 to 1,000 people use this facility,” Kooistra said. “Our meals each night get about 150 to 300 people.”

Kooistra explained that when she closed the centre Saturday afternoon to prepare for The Coldest Night, guests were cheering when they found out a fundraiser was happening for them.

She continued, “I think its extremely important to make [the public] aware of what some of the people are going through who have no place, who come here and get a free meal and can sit down and just enjoy themselves and feel that comfort.”

As for Brush, he speculated that community involvement is key to having successful fundraisers.

“It shows that we care,” Brush said. “It’s something active and fun and you start to build bridges with other people.”

“That’s what a community is all about.”

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