A record-breaking 70 teams, consisting of 383 walkers, participated in the eighth annual Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event for the Orillia Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter this past Saturday.
To this point, the event has raised over $167,532, which shattered the fundraising goal of $135,000, and last year’s total of $134,000. It’s the most the event has ever raised in its eight-year history.
“We are completely blown away to be honest. It’s incredible,” said Lynn Thomas, a CNOY organizer and Lighthouse development coordinator.
The success of this year’s CNOY event in Orillia is being shared country-wide. The event takes place in 149 Canadian communities and a whopping $9-million has been raised for people experiencing homelessness and hunger, which surpassed the national goal of $6-million.
Currently, Orillia ranks sixth on the highest-grossing communities chart across the nation.
“As a fundraiser, I’ve been seeing this trend all year. If you give people the opportunity, they are giving. People are realizing how blessed they are to have a home and somewhere safe to be during these times,” Thomas said.
“There has been a real light shed across Canada on the lack of affordable housing and situations of homelessness, and people in our community care.”
Thomas also attributes the success of the event to people having more disposable income. The CNOY event saw 250 more donors in Orillia this year compared to last year.
“People aren’t travelling, they haven’t been going out for dinner, some people aren’t even spending gas money, so they have more in their account and are more open to giving a donation,” she explained.
It is expected that all funds raised in Orillia this year will be put toward the new shelter and community hub on Queen Street, which is just $800,000 away from completing its $14.5-million fund-raising campaign.
“We are the only emergency shelter in the area. We are the only ones who shelter youth and women, and I think the community is realizing that there is nowhere else for these people to stay,” Thomas said.
“If we don’t want to see people sleeping in doorways and in tents in the woods, then we should help the Lighthouse.”
Thomas said she is thankful for the community and all the event supporters for another year of continued success.
“I think our community looks after its own, they love this event, there is a real heart for doing this event, and everybody gets excited for it every year,” she said.Those who would like to donate can still do so here, until the end of March.