Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society (ACAWS) is once again raising money for the hungry, homeless and hurting in the community through their annual Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser.
However, the novel coronavirus pandemic means that the 2021 event will look a little different.
“We’re rising to the challenge,” explained ACAWS executive director Ellen Frood. “Everything is online this year.”
In past years, Coldest Night of the Year has been a pledge-based, family-friendly walk that takes place at the end of February. This year, ACAWS is inviting people to walk any time throughout the month of February. Participants will self-organize individually, or in team bubbles, and select their own safe walk route near home at a time convenient for them.
Participants can either sign up for a team, create their own team or donate to another walker online at www.cnoy.org. No registration is required this year. Any adult who raises at least $150 (or any child who raises $75) will receive a Coldest Night of the Year toque that can be picked up at the ACAWS office on Third Avenue.
The Coulson Group of Companies has stepped up as the lead sponsor for the Port Alberni event, while Alberni District Co-op and Valley Vision Optometry are also offering their sponsorship.
“Really, it’s more important than ever to show our support,” said Frood. “It’s a fun way to get out with your bubble while helping women and children who are fleeing violence.”
This year, fundraising is even more important, said Frood. Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, there has been a “significant” increase in domestic and family violence in Port Alberni.
All proceeds from the event will be going to ACAWS for programs such as counselling, outreach and victim services.
“Like many non-profits in the community, our ability to do fundraising has dropped so dramatically during COVID-19,” said Frood.
Last year, ACAWS raised more than $33,000 during the Coldest Night of the Year. This year, Frood is hoping to reach at least $30,000.
“We’re at 56 percent of our goal already,” said Frood. “But we only have a month to go.”
Although participants will be walking individually this year, Frood is still encouraging walkers to make it a fun, community event.
“What we suggest, just for the fun of it, is that people can take pictures out on their walk,” said Frood. These photos can be shared on the Coldest Night of the Year: Port Alberni Facebook page.