The Coldest Night of the Year will serve up a lot of warm meals for homeless people in Maple Ridge.
As Saturday’s event started, some 110 participants in the first such charity walk met at the Salvation Army Caring Place, 22188 Lougheed Highway, just as many clients who would benefit from the event were arriving to have their dinner.
The canvass by the walkers, who did five- and 10-kilometre walks, raised $15,000, which will mostly be put toward the Sally Ann’s local food program.
“It was great. It was fantastic. It exceeded our expectations,” said organizer Amelia Norrie, spokesperson for the Caring Place.
Later, the group would pass by some of the downtown locations were homeless people live on the street.
“It definitely exposed our participants to some things they don’t usually see every day,” she said.
There were Coldest Night walks in Charlottetown, Montreal, Thunder Bay, Edmonton and a total of 38 cities across Canada that night. Put on by various social services agencies, they are all intended to “support the hungry, homeless and hurting across Canada.”
Considering February temperatures on the Prairies, “we definitely had one of the nicer places to do a walk,” said Norrie.
Still, the walkers were appreciative of the hot chocolate and coffee stations along the route. They mostly came from churches, school groups and agencies, including Fraser Health, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and staff from the Salvation Army.
“There was a great energy – lots of community members out supporting the event,” said Norrie.
At the end of the walk, which took about two hours for the 10-km participants, they had hot beverages, chili and fellowship.
The top fundraising team was the ministry’s Ridge Racers, who brought in almost $4,000, and who will be treated to a team dessert by Salvation Army chef Tim Sarsfield.
Norrie said the fundraiser will be revisited in 2014.
“It’ll be back in February of next year – we definitely plan to do it again.”