Folks will be able to gather once again to brave the bitter cold while raising funds for Ann Davis Transition Society (ADTS) this year.
The Coldest Night of the Year five-kilometre fundraiser walk is back on Saturday, Feb. 26 and, unlike last year, it’ll be an in-person event.
“The whole purpose of this event is… to be in the homeless’s shoes and experience what it’s like to have to walk around in the dark and be so cold,” said Holly Hohmeier, ADTS executive assistant.
The annual fundraiser takes place across Canada to raise money for charities that help people experiencing homelessness, hurt, and hunger. Here in Chilliwack, money raised locally will be going to ADTS for the second year in a row.
Hohmeier is the main organizer for this year’s event in Chilliwack and said it’s been quite challenging for a few reasons.
News of it going back to an in-person fundraiser came quite recently.
“We had to pivot pretty quickly… but we’re going to make it happen,” Hohmeier said.
There was some unfortunate bad timing for them as well. About a week after she began making phone calls asking for sponsorships, the flooding hit.
So they put things on hold for a while and helped flood victims. They later focussed on Christmas hampers and housing people during the sub-zero cold snap, and then went back to organizing the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser.
“I think we’ve done OK considering the setbacks we’ve had,” Hohmeier said.
Last year, nearly 200 people participated by walking their own route and $60,000 was raised. The goal is the same for this year, but both Hohmeier and executive director Patti MacAhonic believe funds raised this year will only be about half that of 2021.
“With the heat dome, second full year of COVID and then the flooding, I think people are just a little bit fatigued and I get it,” MacAhonic said. “But our numbers have gone way up.”
In December, more than 500 people came through the ADTS outreach office on Yale Road.
“It’s so bad out there right now, there’s so much need, so the Coldest Night of the Year is really, really important,” MacAhonic stressed.
The money raised will go to services for clients, gift cards for grocery stores, and “practical supports” such as cheques to help pay for rent, bills and other items.
MacAhonic and Hohmeier spoke about where some of the money has gone in the past.
ADTS gave one family about $400 to pay for a vehicle repair so the husband could continue to drive to work. One woman had a sudden death in her family and she needed money to help pay for funeral costs. Sometimes money goes towards a damage deposit.
Recently, they paid for a young man’s flight so he could go home to Alberta after he lost his job in Surrey. He had walked from Surrey to Abbotsford, and then to Chilliwack. MacAhonic saw him last summer with a shopping cart on Chilliwack Lake Road and she stopped to help him. He mentioned there were other men he met along his journey who encouraged him to do drugs.
“If he would have been left out there for another week, probably one of these older guys would have got him addicted and had him running drugs. It could have been such a different outcome,” MacAhonic said. “But we were able to help.”
And then there’s the story that still makes MacAhonic tear up.
Years ago, a man came in to ADTS to get Christmas gifts for his three daughters. His wife had recently died and his EI cheque hadn’t yet arrived. They sent him home with presents for his girls and some money. The man cried as he thanked ADTS for their help and support.
“Every year he donates back to us,” MacAhonic said.
“This fundraiser, Coldest Night of the Year, fits so well with what we do,” she added.
As of Wednesday, Feb. 16, more than $25,000 had been raised and 124 people had signed up for the event.
This year’s walk is set for Saturday, Feb. 26. It starts at the Ann Davis Transition Society office at 9046 Young Rd. Check-in time is at 4 p.m. and the walk begins at 5:15 p.m. There’s a five-kilometre and two-kilometre route. Coffee and hot chocolate will be handed out mid-route and walkers will get pizza, pop and chips at the end.
To donate, sign up, or for more info, go to CNOY.org/Chilliwack.