It wasn’t the coldest night of the year, which probably kept the crowd cheerful and warm.
Hundreds of walkers turned up at The Mustard Seed’s fourth annual Coldest Night of the Year walk in Red Deer on Saturday evening.
Red Deer’s Tracy Anderson was one of the participants who signed up for a five kilometre walk. She was part of a team from her work at Cosmos Group of Companies and raised more than $200 for the cause.
“We have a crisis here – homelessness, hunger, people in need, not to mention the wonderful things The Mustard Seed does as part of its school lunch program,” she said.
It was Anderson’s first time taking part in the event.
“We have kids who don’t have what they need to get through the school day, and it really touches my heart,” she said.
Anderson said she tries to keep up with all the issues in central Alberta and believes homelessness is a big one.
She said talking about issues such as homelessness, and making people aware of the problem, not only educates the community, but also reduces the stigma around it.
“A lot of us have never walked in the shoes of those who maybe at one time were part of a family, and due to life’s events, found themselves in this situation where they were homeless and had no money,” Anderson said.
Scott Tilbury, community development officer at the Red Deer Mustard Seed, said the organization had hoped to raise $22,000, and has exceeded that goal.
More than 150 walkers came out to the event – a number higher than hoped.
“It’s helpful that we have warm weather. It is indeed not the coldest night of the year,” he said.
The temperature in Red Deer was around -2 C with a wind chill of -6 C when the two-, five- and 10-kilometre walks started.
The event, which serves as a fundraiser for the agency, supports programs and services for people who are experiencing homelessness and mental health issues.
“We are building relationships with people, and helping them move forward in their lives,” he said. “We walk with them.”
The event not only raises money for the organization, but educates people about how the agency helps the community, Tilbury said.
“When we share the messaging with citizens, their response is typically, in some ways, amazement. They’re usually thankful we’re treating our guests with dignity and we’re helping people move forward in their lives,” he said.
“There are many citizens in Red Deer who are only one paycheque away from losing their home.”
The agency has to raise more than a million dollars per year in Red Deer to support the services it provides, such as the school lunch program.
Last year, the organization served 150,000 meals in Red Deer, Tilbury said.
Similar events were organized in 136 cities in Canada, including Edmonton and Calgary.