By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
Following Strathmore’s efforts at last year’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser – where a slow start, 40 participants and a total of $8,000 fell short of meeting their objectives – the Strathmore Overnight Shelter (SOS) is campaigning for a greater outcome at this year’s country-wide charity walk.
Last year, Strathmore aimed at raising $20,000 through the event in which participants take part in a two-, five- or 10-kilometre walk. But the organizers struggled with a short time frame and a learning curve in hosting the fundraiser for the first time, and came up $12,000 short of their goal.
Now a year later, organizers hope to more than double participation and monetary donations by raising awareness through social media, recruiting captains to network, and advertising in local businesses in order to raise funds for the operations of the overnight shelter.
“We’re a little faster this year although still slower than I would like,” said John Hilton-O’Brien, president of the SOS board.
“At this point we don’t need any more money to open the shelter itself. So the money raised is going to literally go to keeping the lights on as well as going to the staff and food. I know it’ll come together in the end, but I’m always worried about it.”
The shelter requires two full-time staff and nearly $90,000 annually for its operations. The project received $60,000 from the Town of Strathmore, and community donations collected through various means since the initiative’s inception have surpassed those of the town.
The Coldest Night of the Year is a family-friendly fundraiser that helps raise money for charities serving the homeless and hurting families and youth. Since 2011, communities involved with the fundraiser – now 123 locations Canada-wide – have raised over $16.5 million. In 2017, the event raised a total of $4.7 million with 113 walks across the country.
Strathmore’s current goal is to attract over 100 participants and raise $20,000. Blue Sea Philanthropy, an organization that works with the charities and provides the website, logistics and support, said Strathmore’s goal is attainable for a community of its size. They noted the community of Nelson, B.C., with a population of roughly 10,000, raised $50,000 last year.
“Strathmore got a bit of a late start last year, and the first year is always a bit of a learning curve, and we’re hoping that they’ll hit at least $20,000 this year,” said Mika Takamaki, spokesperson with Blue Sea Philanthropy.
“Strathmore has low numbers now; if they’re asking people and getting the word out then they should do OK. We’d like for them to do better. That’s why we do this event to help charities succeed. We’ve chatted with the folks in Strathmore and we’ve heard of how many people have been influenced by the economy there and how the shelter is meeting a need… so we’d love for them to do better so they can help more people.”
According to Takamaki, the average charity raises roughly $40,000.
The Coldest Night of the Year started in 2011 with two locations: Kitchener and Toronto. Since then it’s grown to over 100 locations in Canada including 13 walks in Alberta.
“One of the things we really like about the Coldest Night of the Year, is homelessness is an issue across the country and for a lot of people they’re not quite sure what to do, how to help out, and how to engage the issue, so this is one simple thing people can do,” said Takamaki.
“The reason we do the event is because it’s hard for charities to raise money, and with our part we’re able to help a lot of charities raise a lot of money for the work that they’re doing.”
The Coldest Night of the Year will take place on Feb. 24. For more information and to get involved, contact John Hilton-O’Brien at 587-229-9318 or visit HOB’s Hobbies. Those interested in participating can also sign up by visiting www.cnoy.org and selecting Strathmore as the location.