Coldest Night of the Year walk will take place on Feb. 23 at John Barsby Community School, 550 Seventh St. (Photo supplied by Island Crisis Care Society/Sarah Packwood/Spenser Smith)

Coldest Night of the Year walk supports people in Nanaimo experiencing homelessness

Island Crisis Care Society event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 23

Nanaimo residents will brave the cold for a cause next weekend.

On Feb. 23, beginning at 5:15 p.m., hundreds of individuals will gather at John Barsby Secondary School for the 8th annual Coldest Night of the Year Walk.

Participants will walk in either a two-, five- or 10-kilometre route around the city as part of a fundraising event for the Island Crisis Care Society.

Money raised will help the organization provide services to local individuals experiencing homelessness.

Corrie Corfield, resource development coordinator for Island Crisis Care Society, said the event is an excellent opportunity for people to get together with others in the community, support an important cause and better understand the plight people experiencing homelessness face.

“It’s a great way to get out and spend some time in someone else’s shoes and see what it is like to be out in the cold this time of year,” she said.

Corfield said 200 walkers are expected to participant in this year’s event. She said her organization hopes to raise $40,000 this year and have already raised $24,433.

“We are on track to hit our goal, which is pretty exciting,” she said.

Registration for the event ranges between $25-$40 unless individuals are able to raise a minimum amount of $75-$150 depending on their age. Following the conclusion of the walk, participants will be provided with a warm meal.

“It’s nothing fancy,” Corfield said. “The concept of the meal is that if you were heading a shelter or a soup kitchen, this is the kind of meal you would be eating; a nice hearty bowl of chili.”

The Coldest Night of the Year Walk is a nationwide event takes that was started back in 2011 by Blue Sea Philanthropy, a charity based in Kitchener, Ont.

Island Crisis Care Society has been hosting the walk in Nanaimo since 2012. The organization operates a number of shelters in Nanaimo including the Samaritan House, the city’s only women’s shelter, as well as the temporary supportive housing complex on 250 Terminal.

Corfield said with so much local media coverage about the homelessness situation of late, her organization has noticed more people wanting to help. She said the face of homelessness in the city is changing and more seniors are finding themselves without a home.

“There is a lot people don’t see and what we’re really looking at is that changing face of homelessness,” she said. “We’re seeing it at our Samaritan House shelter, with a lot more older women, even into their 80s, who are forced into homelessness and are forced to be out in the cold and the rain.”

At the end of the day, Corfield said the Coldest Night of the Year walk is meant to be a positive experience that highlights a much more serious issue in the community.

“This is a really positive event and a lot of fun. People get together and see people they maybe haven’t seen in a long time and walk alongside them and have fun,” she said. “It’s just a really positive way to shed some light on a really important issue.”

Event registration begins at 4 p.m. at John Barsby school, 550 Seventh St., on Feb. 23. Opening ceremony takes place at 5 p.m. followed by the walk at 5:15 p.m. For more information on the event or to donate, please visit 
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