Red Deerians can walk a mile – or more – in the shoes of those experiencing homelessness.
The Mustard Seed is hosting the third annual Coldest Night of the Year – a family-friendly walk Feb. 23 that raises money for charities serving hungry, homeless people.
The Canada-wide event encourages participants to step outside the warmth and comfort of home and shine a light of welcome and inclusion.
Laura Unruh, Red Deer Mustard Seed community development co-ordinator, said the event raises money that stays in the city and raises awareness.
“By walking at dusk during a winter’s night, you feel a hint of the challenge faced by those who are experiencing homelessness during the winter,” she said.
Last year, the event raised $35,000 for the Red Deer Mustard Seed.
Unruh said the money goes toward programs the organization offers, such as the school lunch initiative and evening meals for those accessing services.
“If you want to break it down, we use some of the money to support our school lunch program, and it’s $2 per lunch, per child, so that’s 17,500 lunches for kids right here in Red Deer.”
The money is raised when walkers register – as individuals and as teams. Unruh said registration is $25 for an individual and goes up to $40 after Feb. 18. The fee is waived when people sign up as teams and collect pledges.
After the two-, five- and 10-kilometre walks downtown, walkers will enjoy a meal at the charity.
“The purpose of that is to grow community… it allows people to enter our doors and it removes barriers and stigma. For instance, some people might be frightened to come to The Mustard Seed, and it’s a safe place for people to come and experience community,” she said.
Over the past two years, the event has grown, with about 86 registrants in 2017 and about 200 in 2018.
Unruh is hoping approximately 200 people sign up this year.
“I recognize that it being smack dab in the middle of the (Canada Winter) Games that might pose a challenge,” she said.
Registration opens at 4 p.m. Feb. 23, followed by the walk at 5:15 and dinner at 6 p.m. For more information or to register, visit cnoy.org.