More than $5,000 has already been raised, and almost 50 people have signed up to participate in Whalley’s iteration of the “Coldest Night of the Year” walk, an annual fundraiser held across Canada in February that has raised millions of dollars to help those living on the street.
Organizers of this year’s event in Whalley have set out to raise $25,000.
“We’re starting at city hall, and ending at city hall,” said one of the organizers, Jonquil Hallgate, chair of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Task Force. The group is partnering with Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society (SHHS) to host the fundraiser this year, for the first time.
“There will be two-, five- and 10-kilometre walks,” Hallgate said of the event, which is meant to give participants a short glimpse into what homeless people endure during cold, winter months. “We have extremely cold weather this year. So that half hour you’re outside, imagine if you were outdoors for 24 hours a day, every day, in this weather. What would that be like for you?”
The opening ceremonies will begin at 5 p.m. on Feb. 23 at Surrey City Hall (13450 104th Ave.).
Hallgate, who is co-ordinator of the Extreme Weather Response shelter program in Surrey, said she was saddened to learn this week that an 80-year-old woman was sleeping at one of the locations.
“A lot of people, especially older people, who made what was a decent wage 20 or 30 years ago, but didn’t have great pensions when they retired, that money doesn’t carry through meeting the costs today,” she said. “The reality is that many people are struggling today with economic challenges based on rising costs of everything, housing and food and what have you. Some of us are fortunate enough to maybe have enough to get by week by week and not worry too much about the fact that next month we won’t have a place to live.”
Hallgate said “every dollar counts” at the fundraiser and the funds go directly to programs, “not administration.”
“We’re really making a push for sponsorships and donors, and for people to walk and bring along friends.”
Hallgate also said she’s looking for volunteers to help out.
As of Friday afternoon, 48 walkers had signed up between 12 teams.
To learn more, to register or to donate, visit cnoy.org/location/surreywhalley.
Other Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) events are being held locally, including one in Cloverdale that will benefit Cloverdale Community Kitchen, and another in White Rock, being organized by Sources Community Resources Society.
Since 2011, CNOY events have raised more than $21 million in support of 132 charities serving the “homeless, hungry and hurting” across Canada.