Organizers hope to raise $121,000 at the 2021 Coldest Night of the Year event in the Comox Valley. Photo supplied

Organizers hope to raise $121,000 at the 2021 Coldest Night of the Year event in the Comox Valley. Photo supplied

Annual fundraiser incorporates new look in Comox Valley

The Strathcona-Sunrisers hold a slight edge over Heather’s Hikers while St. George’s United Church is holding down third spot.

These are three of the teams participating in the next Coldest Night of the Year walk in the Comox Valley. The event is part of an annual nationwide initiative to raise money for charities that serve hungry, homeless and hurting people.

Past events have run out of St. George’s United Church in Courtenay. Next year, however, will look quite different as participants will walk wherever and whenever they choose from Feb. 12-21.

“We’ll be ‘walking apart’ while ‘working together,’” said Michele Vanderwoude, event director of the local walk. “People can walk in Comox, Courtenay or Cumberland, or anywhere else they enjoy walking. They can walk their dog, they can walk on a treadmill, or just go for a walk on the beach.

“It won’t be the same, but it will still be fun,” she added. “We will be doing a lot more virtual engagement, we’ll have some fun opportunities for people along the proposed walk routes, and we’re encouraging folks to share their photos and videos of their walk.”

For the past five years, Vanderwoude said the event has received “incredible support from the community,” exceeding fundraising goals in the last two years. The Comox Valley has been among the top 20 fundraising communities across Canada — out of 140 — and top five in B.C. for the event.

The 2020 walk raised more than $100,000. The goal for 2021 is $121,000.

“We know next year’s fundraising goal is lofty, but we believe we can make it happen, together,” Vanderwoude said. “We have some great community partners working with us, and we know some of the past years’ participants are coming up with very creative ideas for walking and fundraising. I think we are going to see something quite unique in the Comox Valley.”

Since 2018, she said there has been a 13 per cent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Comox Valley. A greater number of unhoused individuals are women, youth and seniors. Because of the pandemic, the demand for services and assistance has never been greater.

“We need to work together, as a community, to help put an end to homelessness,” Vanderwoude said.

All funds raised are shared between the Comox Valley Transition Society and the Dawn To Dawn Action on Homelessness Society. The money supports programs that provide housing and other supports to the most vulnerable people in the community.

Registration is by donation. Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $20 and more.

Walkers will still receive a touque. There be some socially-distanced touque distribution opportunities starting early February.