By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It’s a chilly Saturday afternoon at the Morinville Fish and Game Association’s pond when six local residents take to the trail for a photo opportunity. The Weather Network says it’s -6 that afternoon but the wind whipping across the frozen ice begs to differ. It’s saying it’s at least -12 and with each breeze proclaims that it’s just too cold to be standing around for too long. While the participants grumble about the chill cutting through them like an icy knife, they each know that a warm car and a warm house are not far away, both material objects they have unfettered access to.
But not so for those whom the six have gathered together on a breezy Saturday afternoon for. They’re all participating in The Coldest Night of the Year, a non-competitive 5 and 10 kilometre winter-walk fundraiser supporting select Canadian charities that serve the hungry, homeless and hurting in cities and communities across Canada.
Calling themselves Cold Feet, Warm Hearts, the six walkers are participating in the Edmonton leg of the event, taking place Feb. 25. The group, actually 14 in number, are looking to raise $2,000 or more for the Hope Mission, the charity of choice in the Edmonton event.
Team captain Valerie Loseth, who is participating in the event with her husband Kevin and son Travis, said not every homeless person is from the city. “There are homeless people that start out in small communities,” she said. “If we can do something to better the lives of those people, then it’s good.”
Loseth explained individual walkers are campaigning for donations and that donations can also be made to the group as a whole. Higher Grounds Espresso Bar on 100 Avenue currently has a pledge sheet posted for the team and is collecting donations on behalf of the Cold Feat, Warm Hearts group. Thus far the group has raised almost half of their $2,000 goal. The team captain is pleased with the amount raised so far and by the number of people that have pledged to walk on Feb. 25. “I think it shows we are a caring lot,” she said of her fellow team mates and of the community that has supported the team out of the gate.
For Eva Scrimshaw, participating in the event was largely a matter of awareness. “I wanted to walk for Hope Mission to raise awareness to a social issue that is typically overlooked,” she said. “Just because we do not see the people affected by homelessness in our community does not mean it’s not an issue. I want to walk for those who have been forgotten, abused, abandoned and give some hope to those in need.”
Stacey Buga, another of the participants in the weekend walk, said a she wanted to participate in the event despite not being a walker by nature and being someone who simply does not like the cold. “This is a major challenge,” she said of the prospect of walking 5 km Feb. 25. “I have family that is working in social work right now and they always say if you see someone in need call 9-11 if it’s really cold out. Let somebody come and take care of them because it’s dangerous.”
Although the Morinville and area walkers will be bundled to guard against the dangers of sub-zero temperatures, the walk does provide participants the opportunity to experience a brief glimpse at the challenges the homeless face by walking a long distance during the dead of winter. Whether or not Feb. 25 will be the coldest night of the year remains to be seen, but the event name is representative of the beastly weather conditions Canada’s homeless face in the winter months. It is that opportunity to walk a kilometre in another person’s shoes the group feels will help keep them mindful of the suffering of others.
“We have a choice of walking 5 or 10 kilometres that night, but the people on the streets – they don’t have a choice of how far they walk or where they end up in the evening,” Loseth said. “If we can do something, then that’s just great for us.”
Those wishing to contribute to the fundraiser can do so online directly on a webpage set up for the Cold Feet, Warm Hearts team at http://my.e2rm.com/TeamPage.aspx?teamID=269477&LangPref=en-CA or by dropping into Higher Grounds Espresso Bar on 100 Avenue in Morinville.