YWCA Coldest Night of the Year raises over $50,000

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Walkers take off down Central Avenue during the YWCA’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser on Saturday.

The 2024 version of Prince Albert’s Coldest Night of the Year might have been one of the warmest to date.

Walkers ventured out for a good cause on Saturday evening: to raise money for Prince Albert’s homeless, hurting, and hungry during the YWCA’s annual Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser.

YWCA Prince Albert CEO Donna Brooks was pleased to see so many people come out to support the cause.

“I love it,” she said. “Not only does it help with the fundraising part it also helps with the awareness. The larger the group, the more presence we have when we’re walking around the street. It also shows that we have support within the city of Prince Albert, so it means a lot.”

David Hambelton Fund Development Officer with YWCA Prince Albert agreed with Brooks that the community support was excellent.

“It’s just always amazing to see the community come out,” he said. “We get so much support, so much love from the community and we really couldn’t do it without the support from Prince Albert and all the amazing people who show up to walk, to fundraise, and all the people who donate as well.”

The sixth year of the family-friendly walk-a-thon opened up with a presentation at Plaza 88 at 5 p.m., where all the walkers gathered to see the acting Chair of the Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission, Deborah McLean present a $5,000 donation on behalf of the lead sponsor.

McLean was taking the place of the late Shirley Henderson, who passed away in late December. Before the cheque presentation, there was a moment of silence for Henderson.

“Shirley Henderson was an instrumental part in us receiving funding from the PAGC Women’s Commission being a lead sponsor for this,” Brooks said.

“But Shirley Henderson took it a step further. It wasn’t just that she advocated for us. Shirley helps so many people on the ground and in her community and the people that we serve every day, so Shirley is missed, absolutely,” she added.

Brooks said that it was sad that Henderson could not be here for the event this year.

“We are going to be thinking about Shirley when we walk. and we would be thinking about what Shirley meant to us and what she meant to this community and her home community of Montreal Lake Cree Nation.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) Donna Brooks accepts a cheque for $5,000 for continued support of the Coldest Night of the Year from Deborah McLean of the Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission on Saturday evening at Plaza 88.

This year the temperatures were warmer than usual. Brooks said that the walkers and volunteers were due for nice weather.

“We’ve done this Coldest Night of the year now for several years, and I remember walking one year in the wind chills it was about -30 C,” Brooks said. “I will go with the plus temperatures this year.”

Brooks said it might be the warmest Coldest Night of the Year but the message remains the same.

“It’s still winter. Would you want to sleep outside today? So it still sends the same message,” she explained.

Through sponsorships and donations collected by the 16 teams and 152 walkers, the YWCA collected $54,690. The goal this year was $70,000 and if they met that Brooks would join YWCA staff in wearing an inflatable costume, which did not come to pass.

Before the walk began there was a total of eight people in inflatable costumes including staff and members of the top fundraising team Gen Z.

The money raised during Coldest Night of the Year goes directly to supporting the City’s most vulnerable through YWCA programming.

Brooks said the best part of the fundraiser was that there are no strings attached. That means the funds can go directly to programs, unlike regular government funding. She said it can fill gaps in the programming that is provided by the YWCA.

One example is snacks that they hand out at the Community Connection Centre and other things that people need

“That’s not something that a funder provides,” Brooks said. “We hand out food at our Central Avenue location too. If people come, they need something, we’ll give them some snacks, those types of things. (It’s) different things that make people’s lives a little better for that day.”

The event was at Plaza 88 for the first time after starting the walk at Save On Foods in Cornerstone in previous years. Hambleton said there were a few reasons for that.

“We did appreciate being able to have the venue at a community business before, but it’s just it’s grown so large that we just needed a bigger space for it,” he said. “Also, being down at Plaza 88 helps us have the walk centred downtown to put the spotlight on homelessness and food insecurity for the community.”

Gen Z, the top fundraising team was led by Lisa Krueger who is the Youth Program Coordinator with YWCA Prince Albert. She said the team included youth from the program and some of her friends and family.

She organized the team of youth to show them how important their programming is.

“The money that we raise, we use it towards well to enhance the programming that we work on, which is our peace initiative. (It) focuses a lot on mental health and just our all-around healthy bodies,” Krueger said.

They did things like a spud nut sale and a pizza sale to fundraise. Gen Z finished first in fundraising with a total of $7,485.48 and Krueger was also the top individual fundraiser with $2,005. The reason they wanted to finish first was simple according to Krueger.

“Because we’re competitive and we want to win and I think it says a lot that the youth do take an active role in their program. They take an active role in the life that we have the Y try to facilitate for them. And I think it just shows that they care, they care about their well-being,” Krueger said.

Hambleton added that the YWCA couldn’t have achieved such a great turnout if it wasn’t for the amazing support that poured in from the community. Donations can still be made to Coldest Night of the Year, according to Hambleton.

“We’re grateful for every donation and we’ll happily accept any amount,” he said.