By any measure, the first edition of the Coldest Night of the Year event in Sudbury on Feb. 23 was a success, with organizers and about 200 walkers raising $56,421 – more than double the target amount.
While a first in Sudbury, the two-, five-, and 10-kilometre walk is a national event that raises money for charities that support “the hungry, homeless and hurting.”
It began in 2011 in Toronto and has grown in popularity.
It gives walkers a small taste of what it’s like to be homeless, putting them on the street in mid-winter in the early evening hours. This year, participants in dozens of cities across Canada collectively raised $1.39 million.
Sudbury’s most famous fundraiser, Gerry Lougheed Jr., finished in the Top 10 of all individual fundraisers across Canada, with a total around $6,900. Sudbury had a second person on the list – Allain Labelle, who raised $3,835 on his own.
“Two teams from Sudbury also finished in the Top 20 out of probably 1,000 teams across Canada,” said organizer Kevin Serviss, addressing about 200 walkers at the food court in the Rainbow Centre Mall just before the evening walk began.
The team, led by Lougheed, raised $9,200, while staff from Gloria’s Restaurant raised $6,164, Serviss said, addressing walkers adorned in the bright yellow toques and scarves participants received.
“You want to know who the winner is? The winner is the Samaritan Centre,” Lougheed said.
He also thanked Gloria’s Restaurant for pushing his group to raise more money.
“It was our incentive to keep raising money every day,” he said. “We knew the gold standard was Gloria’s.”
With that, they headed out of the mall, as organizers prepared a hot meal for when they returned. Linda Joy Serviss said all money raised is going directly to support the Samaritan Centre on Elgin Street.
Since 2005, the centre has fed thousands of the city’s poorest citizens, providing showers, laundry services and many other services.
“A lot of cash has come in this evening that hasn’t been counted yet, so that’s very exciting,” Serviss said, adding that the event brought out the best of Sudbury.
“One family here, it’s the gentleman’s birthday, and he does something different every year,” she said. “And this year he wanted to do the walk. And so all his friends are here and they’ve raised money.”
She and Kevin, her husband, thought the $25,000 goal was beatable, but they’re overwhelmed by the response.
“Head office came up with ($25,000) because it was a first-time attempt in a new city,” she said. “Kevin was thinking, ‘OK, maybe $40,000 would come in.’ But he’s been totally blown away by the response by the people.
“It’s the first year it’s been done in Sudbury, but I believe, from the response, it’s the first of many ... I’m blown away by how much people in Sudbury care. I’m just grateful we live in a city that cares so much, and that looks after one another.”
Check out an updated fundraising total and a list of all fundraisers at http://coldestnightoftheyear.org/location/sudbury