‘Coldest Night’ hopes to warm homeless and hungry

The Salvation Army and Kiwanis Clubs of Chilliwack are partnering for the Coldest Night of the Year Walk.

Kyle Belton

Kyle Belton

In the face of a bad day, most have comforts in place. But for Chilliwack’s less fortunate, they often don’t.

They don’t have cupboards full of food, or warm beds to sleep in, or shoulders to cry on.

They’re alone.

But, on Feb. 22, the Salvation Army and Kiwanis Clubs of Chilliwack are partnering for the Coldest Night of the Year Walk to show Chilliwack’s hungry, homeless and hurting that they’re not, in fact, alone.

Coldest Night of the Year is a walk to help raise funds for the Chilliwack Salvation Army’s 16-bed shelter and soup kitchen.

It’s also a tool meant to open the eyes of the community to the lives of those living on the streets.

“People who are homeless, they’re living on the street all year round, and they’re living out in that cold,” said Kyle Belton, director of shelter and outreach for Chilliwack Salvation Army. “And the thought is to get out there when it’s cold and to just, in a very small way, feel how it is to be out there in that cold and experiencing that.

“And maybe, as you’re walking, you might see people who are actually homeless and start to get an idea of what that looks like in your community too,” said Belton.

While this year’s walk is the inaugural one for Chilliwack, it’s not new elsewhere.

Coldest Night was born in 2011 by Blue Sea Philanthropy, an Ontario-based  public foundation that works towards raising funds for charities that assist the hungry, homeless and hurting.

It’s always held on the last Saturday in February. Last year it raised well over $1 million in partnership with 40 charities across Canada, and more than 5,000 walkers and volunteers.

Chilliwack’s Coldest Night of the Year Walk is on Feb. 22 starting and finishing at the Salvation Army Church on Brooks Ave. There are 2 km, 5 km, and 10 km routes to choose from.

The goal for the walk is to raise $25,000; so far, it’s raised close to $8,000.

To reach this goal, organizers hope to attract at least 20 teams with a goal of raising $2,000 per team. They also hope to attract several individual walkers as well.

“Everything we do, there’s a financial stipulation to it and it can be pretty costly,” said Belton. “And $25,000 will help to go a long way with some of our programs.”

Every walker who raises either $75 (for youth, 17 and under) or $150 (for adults) will be given a Coldest Night toque.

Registration starts at 4 p.m., and the walk begins at 5:15 p.m.

Between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. a light, warm meal will be served to all walkers and volunteers.

The route closes at 8 p.m.

For more information, or to register, visit the website www.coldestnightoftheyear.org/location/chilliwack