Cold walk helps homeless

Feb. 22 will be the Coldest Night of the Year according to forecasters at the Island Crisis Care Society who have the date set for the 2014 walk to help Nanaimo’s homeless.

The annual fundraiser for those who are homeless, hungry and hurting benefits crisis care society clients and gives participants a taste of how it feels to try and survive on the streets in the heart of a Canadian winter.

Coldest night walks are happening in 64 cities across Canada this year.

Nanaimo’s walk starts and ends at John Barsby Secondary School at 550 Seventh St., the staging point for walkers who will turn in the results of their fundraising efforts, walk one of two-, five- or 10-kilometre routes and return afterward for a hot meal to celebrate completing the event.

2014 marks the society’s third year of participation in the walk and this year organizers hope to raise $50,000 from an estimated 350 walkers in 30 teams anticipated to take part in the event. So far, more than $7,000 has been raised by 50 walkers on 17 teams already signed up.

“I think anything that brings attention to the homeless issue helps,” said Gord Fuller, Nanaimo 7-10 Club board chairman.

Fuller estimates there are just under 100 chronically homeless people in the city.

Last year’s walk raised $36,000, but Violet Hayes, Island Crisis Care Society’s executive director, said the number of participants had to be capped at 250 because of the size of the venue, St. Paul’s Anglican Church. John Barsby’s multipurpose room has more space to seat participants.

Hayes said organizers are hoping for the same good weather they had for the 2013 walk.

“The weather was great,” Hayes said. “We say, ‘the Coldest Night of the Year,’ but we live in such a beautiful part of Canada. We were fortunate we didn’t have rain, but that’s when it really affects people who are living out there, is when you have the wind and the rain.”

Event registration fee is $25.

“Actually people bring their kids with them,” Hayes said. “It’s a real family event. I’ve seen six-year-olds raising money. They ask their grandparents and their aunts and uncles and who can refuse a six-year-old?”

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