June 22nd, 2024

‘Coldest Night of the Year’ steps up for those in need

By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on February 28, 2023.

Herald photo by Justin Seward Coldest Night of the Year participants make their way from the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden Bunka Centre as part of Saturday's walk raising funds to support those in need.

Wood’s Homes hosted its inaugural version of the Coldest Night of the Year charity walk on Saturday at Henderson Park

The event is a walk for family and friends to participate in and to raise money for local charities that serve people who are experiencing hurt, hunger and homelessness.

Walkers had the option of walking a two-or five-kilometre route around the park in support of awareness for youth homelessness, which also provided an opportunity for Wood’s Homes to raise money for their programs and youth.

“I mean we have a shelter that provides eight beds, and in the last six months we’ve been consistently between like two and six or seven youth,” said Shauna Cohen, Wood’s Homes programs manager in Lethbridge.

“So there definitely is a need for young people to have a safe place to go off the streets. Our number one reason for referral is family conflict, and so even if that arises in the home, it’s just important that young people have a place to stay and some supportive staff to speak to and just kind of help to find solutions. So, it’s definitely out there, you may not see it as openly as you might see the adult homelessness challenges in our community, but there’s definitely a need.”

Dacey Cooper, Wood’s Homes events and corporate development officer, said Coldest Night of the Year is a reminder for people and community to come together and experience even just a fraction of what some youth may be experiencing on a day-to-day basis. Cooper pointed out a homeless person walks at least 10,000 steps in a day.

“We’re walking two to five kilometres, and it’s giving our community a chance to experience some of the hurt and suffering they have while they’re outside,” Cooper said.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen addressed the crowd before the walk, and said the message of life on the street has never been more relevant than it is today.

“This event, of course, sheds lights on the need and challenges in our community,” Hyggen said. “Wood’s Homes involvement could not be more timely. Quietly, they’ve worked with the most vulnerable in our community; the most vulnerable youth and others within our community. Knowing that Wood’s Homes offers warmth, housing, employment services and hope is reassuring, but I can guarantee they need your help.”

Streets Alive Mission also held a Coldest Night of the Year charity walk downtown on the same day, and together the two events, which involved 208 walkers, raised a total of $70,582.

The initiative has raised $58 million across Canada in 166 communities since 2011.

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