Coldest Night of the Year 2021 seeing changes

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Baby, it’s cold outside … so grab your warmest coat, hat, scarf and mitts and prepare to participate in the Coldest Night of the Year Walk.

This annual event that raises funds for the Pictou County Roots for Youth Society — in fact, it is the organization’s only fundraiser — has been set to take place on February 20 and this time there is a twist: precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 mean that participants can walk virtually or in-person.

Stacey Dlamini, executive director of Pictou County Roots for Youth Society says, “For the virtual option, people can walk any time during the month of February. They can form their own team or walk with their family – however they feel comfortable.”

If the numbers of those with COVID-19 continue to climb and the province goes into a lockdown mode again forcing organizers to cancel the in-person event, Dlamini says the virtual event will still allow people to raise money for the cause.

Dalmini says organizers sent out a survey to gauge the interests of the participants. Seventy per cent of respondents from Pictou County said they would like to have an in-person event if Public Health would allow it to happen.

Another big change with the 20221 event, given the current climate and precautions against COVID-19, Dlamini says the entire event will be held outside – not just the walk.

“Registration will take place outside and we won’t be able to gather in the basement for the meal following the walk, but refreshments will be provided along the route.”

Annually, Dlamini estimates the CNOY Walk sees about 300 walkers and 70 volunteers. “We will have fewer volunteers this year because of the fact that everything is happening outside. We don’t know how many people will elect to attend the in-person event but when they sign up via the website they will determine at that point whether they are signing up for the in-person event or whether they are going to do it virtually.”

Keeping with the theme of safety in a pandemic world, February’s event will also be cashless.

“As people fundraise and collect pledges and sponsorship, we’re asking the team captains to deposit that money into their accounts and pay with their credit card, and have donors pay with their credit card where possible.” Pledges can be e-transferred or visit the organization’s website at cnoy.org/newglasgow and pay using a credit card.

The campaign will be officially launched December 1.

The Coldest Night of the Year is a COVID-safe, family-friendly walk to raise money for charities serving people experiencing homelessness, hurt, and hunger.

Christian Fellowship Church is once again the headquarters for the walk, with two different walking options that will start and finish there. The walks are two kilometers, which is to the head of George Street and back to the church, and a 5-K walk that goes from the Church to the New Glasgow Farmers Market and returning along Archimedes Street.

This will be the fifth year for the local event and the fundraising goal is $50,000.

“This is our only fundraiser,” Dlamini says, “and these funds literally help us to keep our doors open. They fund our running expenses as a shelter, fund our programming … all of goes to our core operating expenses.”

In the past 12 months, 26 youth have been assisted in ending their homelessness by being accommodated at the emergency shelter in New Glasgow. Funds raised in the CNOY walk make this possible.

This year marks the first time that there is a waiting list of youth seeking the shelter. Dlamini says COVID-19 has diminished the capacity of Roots House to serve the needs of young people; the local shelter has lost a bed due to the need for social distancing, so fewer youth can be accommodated at the shelter. “Now I have 11 young people on a wait list,”

The Coldest Night of the Year is a family-friendly national walk-a-thon that helps raise funds for charities that serve hungry, homeless and hurting people in 136 communities where the events take place across Canada.