Auburn team raises thousands for Coldest Night of the Year
BY DENNY SCOTT
As of Monday, the local chapter of the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, an initiative to raise funds to help those facing homelessness, hurt or hunger, had raised more than double its $40,000 goal.
The fundraiser, which is centred in Goderich and had its inaugural event last year, raised $81,984 this year thanks in no small part to a local team from Auburn that raised $3,370, making them the seventh-ranked team out of 42. The team’s captain Beth Blowes reached out to The Citizen to let the community know about the team, the project and the good the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser does.
The event, which, due to COVID-19, started on Feb. 20 and runs to Feb. 28, encourages teams to fundraise by walking together which also raises awareness of homelessness issues.
Blowes is a board member for the United Way Perth Huron, which hosted the Goderich event, as well as events in Exeter (in its second year) and St. Marys and North Perth, both in their first year. The United Way also co-hosted the long-running walk in Stratford, which Shelterlink has hosted for more than seven years, Blowes said.
One of the most important things about the event is that the funds raised locally support local initiatives, Blowes said.
She said the money raised will help support local projects like the hiring of a housing advocate to support homeless or precariously-housed individuals, the Heart-to-Home Shelter that is hosted by the Lakeshore United Church in Goderich, the Help with Safe Homes for Youth project in Goderich for youth who are unable to live with their parents, the Huron Women’s Shelter, Second-Stage Housing, and the Turning Point Shelter for Men in Exeter.
Blowes said the Turning Point Shelter was able to double its capacity last year due to the fundraiser.
This year, Blowes said the initiative will support the Urgent Needs Fund managed by the United Way Perth Huron that helps people during emergency situations. The fund is administered by Huron County Social and Property Services, Blowes said, and anyone in need can apply for assistance with basic amenities like medication, transport or food.
Traditionally, the national event involves people walking together on what is statistically the coldest night of the year, which was recognized as Feb. 20 this year. Due to COVID-19, however, the events were made somewhat virtual, encouraging people to walk by themselves or with families and friends, as a safe way to continue the fundraiser through the pandemic, Blowes said.
“Last year the walk in Goderich started at 5 p.m. and we all walked around The Square together,” she said. “This year, we decided to walk united, but walk apart. Groups could do what they were most comfortable with.”
Knowing the event was coming and that there are a number of women in Auburn who walk regularly, Blowes started to reach out and form her team.
“We’ve got a lot of women in Auburn who walk, work out, play pickleball, snowshoe or ski, so I figured I’d get a group together and the rest is history,” she said.
Team Auburn, as they came to be known, includes Blowes, Brenda Rutledge, Brenda Empey, Juanita Hamp, Shelley Worsell, Karen Redmond, Nancy Park, Sandra Popp and Jacqui Empson Laporte. The team also has a mascot in Empey’s canine companion BJ.
The team walked approximately four miles through the Wawanosh Nature Centre with Empey leading the way and cutting a path with her snowshoes, Blowes said.
“It was single-file most of the way,” she said. “It was a beautiful day, but there was a lot of snow to work through.”
Blowes said all the walks either hosted or co-hosted by the United Way Perth Huron exceeded their goals, proving the amazing feedback and fundraising that was in Goderich wasn’t an isolated situation.
Team Auburn raised $3,370, exceeding its own goal of $3,000, and, due to the great feedback, Blowes said she anticipates the team will participate will happen again next year.
“All the women said to count them in for next year,” she said. “We hope to keep it growing and, potentially, it might become an annual event for the community.”
For more information on the Coldest Night of the Year Fundraiser, visit cnoy.org.