It’s almost time to lace up and head out into the cold once again.
Orillia’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser is set for Feb. 23. The annual walk raises money for the Lighthouse homeless shelter.
Last year, organizers set a goal of $100,000 and raised more than $112,000. This year’s goal is $110,000, and Lighthouse executive director Linda Goodall is confident “we will crush the goal once again.”
“There are 126 (Coldest Night) walks across Canada and, a lot of the times, they look to Orillia to see what we’re doing because of our success,” she said.
It makes sense. Orillia’s event consistently stands out among the crowd. Last year, it was first in Coldest Night of the Year fundraising per capita and fifth overall, behind the larger municipalities of Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, St. Catharines and Ottawa.
“It comes down to the generosity of the community,” Goodall said.
That generosity comes in the form of donations and volunteers. More than 500 walkers and 100 volunteers showed up for the 2018 event. Organizers are looking for the same number of volunteers, and they’re hoping to get at least 60 teams of walkers. Twenty-five teams had registered as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Feb. 23 event will start at Lions Oval Public School, with registration beginning at 4 p.m., followed by opening ceremonies at 5, and then the walk, which will take participants to the Lighthouse and the future home of the shelter on Queen Street. There will be refreshments along the way, and chili and soup will be served upon the return to Lions Oval.
The money is used to fund the ongoing operations at the Peter Street shelter, but some of this year’s donations will also go toward Building Hope, the campaign to build a new, bigger facility.
Coldest Night of the Year aims to evoke empathy among participants and help them recognize the local homeless population is more than a statistic. It’s important to acknowledge that, Goodall said, noting the Lighthouse serves up to 25,000 meals per year and has 14 beds.
“We say those numbers, but we have to remember that each number is a person. It could be someone you know — a neighbour, a friend, a relative,” she said. “Homelessness doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone.”
To register a team, or to sign up to volunteer, visit cnoy.org/orillia.
Business sponsors are also being sought. Inquiries can be directed to Glenn Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.