St. Catharines’ coldest night of the year event returns

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Last week, Start Me Up Niagara hosted their seventh annual Coldest Night of the Year walk-a-thon in an effort to continue to raise funds for charity.

The Coldest Night of the Year is a national walk-a-thon that helps to raise funds for charities that serve hungry, homeless and vulnerable people in over 130 communities across Canada. In St. Catharines, past years’ funds raised have contributed to the opening of two locations for Start Me Up Niagara which provide on-going, much needed services primarily for individuals facing homelessness. The organization operates an outreach centre every day of the year which offers daily drop-ins with refreshments and recreational activities, in addition to computer and Wi-Fi access.

The event, which was hosted on February 23, saw participants walking one of three different routes of choice. There was a two-kilometre route, a five-kilometre route and a 10-kilometre route. Irrespective of route choice, walkers and volunteers were all provided with warm light meals before the event began and were able to take a breaks along their journey at various of rest stops.

Every year multiple teams band together to collectively raise funds for the initiative. Brock University was represented by two teams — The Brock University team and the Brock Social Justice and Equity Studies (SJES) team. Brock’s SJES team pledged to raise $1,500 in donations and in the end achieved 38 per cent of the goal for a total of $575. The Brock University team pledged to raise $150 in donations and managed to meet almost 70 per cent of the goal with $100 raised.

Like last year, the overall goal for the 2019 walk-a-thon in St. Catharines was set at $120,000. While this goal was surpassed in 2018, this year the event managed to raise a total of $107,000 which amounts to 91 per cent of the goal achieved. This sum was raised through the combined efforts of 373 walkers, 57 teams and 65 volunteers. It is expected that over the course of the next few days the $120,000 mark will be met and surpassed. The Coldest Night of the Year goal across Canada for 2019 was $5,000,000 and at the time of writing, the organization has amassed $5,206,807 and counting — 107 per cent of its goal.

Start Me Up Niagara works with individuals facing significant life challenges such as addiction, mental illness, poverty, homelessness and unemployment. The organization provides opportunities to improve health, increase community integration and support employment. Start Me Up Niagara’s vision is of a society where all people are included, healthy, and self-sufficient. Students who are unfamiliar with the Coldest Night of the Year event might have heard of the Out of the Cold Program, another initiative run by the group aimed at helping the homeless during the harsh winter months.

Interested students are encouraged to reach out and volunteer with the organization whenever possible.

Individuals who might have missed the walk-a-thon but are still interested in donating to Start Me Up Niagara can do so via their website at startmeupniagara.ca.

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