This year’s annual Coldest Night of the Year walkathon will be the first to blend individual and group participation to raise funds for homeless shelter spaces.
Locally, the walkathon has so far raised about $100,000 between pledges to Our Place Society and Pacific Centre Family Services Association.
Seventy-five teams and 400 individuals will hit the chilly pavement at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26. Two locations – Victoria’s Our Place Society Centre on Pandora Street and Langford’s Starlight Stadium on Langford Parkway – will mark the starting points for the two or five-kilometre walks. For the first year, participants can also choose to walk on their own as opposed to with either main group.
Penny Tennenhouse, a Victoria resident and captain of Avodah, a top fundraising team, said that while this Saturday may well bring the coldest night of the year, the walkathon is worthy in any weather given its impact on people facing homelessness. “I just get so pumped and fuelled by doing it, no matter how cold it is,” she said.
Steven Seltzer, Our Place’s manager of special events, said the walk itself is meant to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in Greater Victoria. “The need is much more visible (in Victoria). People see the work we do on Pandora, they see people suffering on downtown streets … but this is obviously a regional issue that every municipality is facing.”
All of the local funds will go towards improving services for those facing homelessness in Victoria and on the West Shore.
“We can provide three meals a day to anyone, we can provide clothing, programs, and resources. But (providing) shelter is still the challenge … we can only do that when we’re able to fundraiser ourselves,” Seltzer said.
Last fall, Our Place Society was forced to close its drop-in centre and overnight shelter on a few occasions due, in part, to staffing shortages.
“Everybody knows that Our Place is, in fact, a vital place in our community,” Tennenhouse said. Through work with Team Avodah and Congregation Emanu-El, Tennenhouse said she’s seen charitable lunches and programs through Our Place make a world of difference for its clientele. “You can see it’s a place where people feel secure and safe.”
As for the walk, “this is just one more way we can show our love and support. It’s very much win-win.”
Local fundraising participants will receive a toque and gift card to sponsor Big Wheel Burger, Seltzer said. Registration or donations can still be made to the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser at cnoy.org/home.
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