The Coldest Night of the Year is returning to the Cowichan Valley on February 25th. It’s a fundraising walk organized by the local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The association is putting all of the funds into an account as they save up to purchase a safe space and create programming for youth experiencing homelessness in the valley.
Organizer Anne Marie Thornton says the demand for these programs exists.
“With an estimated over 300 people that are homeless in the valley, a growing number of those are youth,” says Thornton. “The youth that we’re seeing are kids that need some stability, direction, and support in their lives. They haven’t got any.”
It is set to be a cold night indeed, as it comes at the tail end of a snowfall warning. Environment Canada says a system will work its way across the area earlier on Saturday, tapering off to a few showers or flurries heading into the evening.
They expect total snowfall amounts between 5 to 15 centimetres, with some local amounts up to 20 centimetres. Whatever the weather is, Thornton says it will not stop the event from happening.
“We do want people to get the full experience of what it’s like to be outside and not have anywhere you can go, because a lot of people are out in the cold 24 hours a day,” says Thornton. “The weather doesn’t stop us, we get out there anyways.”
As for the walk itself, there is a two-kilometer route and a five-kilometer route. The two-kilometer has one rest stop along the way and the five has two rest stops. They’ve edited the route to make it a complete circle this year, as opposed to a different starting and end point.
Check-in opens at the Cowichan Community Centre at 4 pm for a 5 pm start to the walk. At 6 pm, they’ll finish the walk and serve a light meal before breaking for the evening.
So far registered for the event are 320 walkers on 57 teams. They are over 68% of the way towards their $100,000 goal. For context, last year was the first time they ran the event in Duncan, and they raised around $92,000.
“A lot of people are concerned about what is happening [with the homeless situation] but they don’t know what they can do,” says Thornton. “This is a simple thing that people can do to get out and help by raising some money and walking for an hour on a Saturday night.”
If you’re interested in donating or participating in the walk, more information can be found on the Coldest Night of the Year website.