This story is made possible through the support of Housser's Paint and Wallpaper as part of OrilliaMatters' Community Leaders Program
It's hard to imagine living through the cold winter without a home, but an upcoming event not only raises money for those in need but also gives participants a glimpse into what it's like to walk the cold streets at night.
February 25 is Orillia's tenth annual Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event, which sees people sign up for a two or five-kilometre walk to raise money and come together as a community.
Linda Goodall, the executive director, said their fundraising goal of $200,000 — of which they’ve currently raised $29,402 — will go to The Lighthouse Orillia, which supports emergency shelters and supportive housing in the community.
The event currently has 162 walkers signed up, but Goodall hopes more people will join, explaining that with over 200 communities in Canada holding the event, if Orillia gathers 1,000 walkers, it will be the first community in the country to do so.
Since Orillia hosted its first CNOY in 2014, its been steadily growing; in 2020, there were over 650 walkers and 160 volunteers. Goodall noted that the event requires around 150 volunteers, but currently, they have only 27.
"So people looking to give back by volunteering or even getting hours for high school can jump in and volunteer," she said.
The five-kilometre walk goes from Twin Lakes to Queen Street, where there will be snacks and music, and then back to Twin Lakes, where there will be a big meal for everyone to enjoy.
"People can just gather and enjoy and be a community," she said, adding that one previous participant said that walking in a group with children and seniors united in a common purpose brought tears to his eyes.
"This is what the event is about; yes, the event is about raising funds, we need the funds, but it's more than that. It's about the heart. And it's about the heart of the community."
To sign up to walk or volunteer for CNOY check out their website.