Coldest Night of the Year goes virtual, raises more than $48,000

Coldest Night of the Year -- Prince Albert YWCA/Facebook

Public health guidelines forced organizers to make a number of changes to the annual Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday, but the community support remained as strong as ever.

Together, 17 teams made up of 110 walkers raised more than $48,000 for the Prince Albert YWCA, although social distancing restrictions prevented participants from walking as one group.

Despite the challenge, event director David Hambleton said the event was a huge success, something he attributed to Prince Albert’s community spirit.

“It has just been incredible, the amount of community support we’ve had,” Hambleton said during the walk’s virtual launch Saturday afternoon. “We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do at the YWCA, helping our community’s most vulnerable members, without the support of the community.”

For the third straight year, the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) supported Coldest Night of the Year as the main sponsor. PAGC vice-chief Joseph Tsannie it’s important to have community groups working together to support vulnerable residents and families.

“I think people coming together and putting their hearts and souls and some creativity into helping the less fortunate people is always very important,” Tsannie said during the opening.

“As a community, I think we can do anything we put our hearts and minds and souls (towards). Together, we can make a difference.”

Coldest Night of the Year received a significant boost from local businessman Malcolm Jenkins, who agreed to match up to $10,000 in donations.

Jenkins was unable to attended Saturday’s walk in person, but sent a few written remarks about the fundraiser’s importance.

“Sitting warm and comfortable indoors these past two bitterly cold weeks really drove home the need to help those less fortunate than ourselves,” he wrote. “All of us at Canadian Tire are happy to be able to contribute to this very important cause.”

Prince Albert YWCA executive director Donna Brooks said community support is vital to keeping their programs and services going. Without that support, she explained, a lot of vulnerable residents would be in big trouble.

“A lot of our programs either operate at a deficit or they just offer the bare bones services,” Brooks said. “Our House is a good example. The homeless shelter Our House always operates at a deficit. The shelter has never operated at a surplus. We rely on fundraising to offset that.”

Brooks said the cold weather has made it even more important to have services like Our House open and operating at full capacity. Over the past two weeks, shelter space was in such high demand they had to partner with the PAGC to create additional room at the Parkland Hall.

She said that’s another sign of just how important it is to have good community partners, and how those partnerships go beyond fundraising.

“All it took was a little work, people working together, and a little brains to keep people warm (and) keep people fed,” Brooks explained. “I can’t say enough about that.”

As of 3 p.m., Coldest Night of the Year had hit 150 per cent of its fundraising goal.