NANAIMO — Dozens of Nanaimo residents got just a small taste of what it's like to be homeless on Saturday, Feb. 25.
They took part in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk, travelling two, five or 10 kilometres at night.
Over $37,000 was raised for the Island Crisis Care Society in Nanaimo, according to event coordinator Michelle Autheir, beating last years tally by several thousand. She said anything over $35,000 would have made her happy.
“It's emotional, I'm not going to lie,” she said of the community support. “The community is starting to understand what the walk is about...helping the vulnerable women in our community.”
The Island Crisis Care Society, which Authier said is often confused with the Vancouver Island Crisis Society, operates a womens shelter and supportive housing downtown, as well as transitional suites and crisis homes for women.
“I haven't heard anyone with a warm, fuzzy childhood story,” she said. “They've all suffered trauma, abuse and horrific upbringings. Coming to the shelter is their last resort.”
All of the society's managers were on hand for the walk helping out. Authier said it was great to see their staff be recognized for their hard efforts. “They go into the field because they really have a heart to help people. They really do care.”
Community advocate Ian Gartshore raised $1,770, the most by an individual in Nanaimo.
He said the secret to his high total was starting his fundraising early.
“When I got going earlier I got some momentum,” he said. “I think people like to support something that's successful.”
It's hoped his own personal momentum will help the walk gain traction in the community as well.
“As more people in the community realize this is a fantastic way to support the homeless, to get them off the streets and give them some dignity, maybe more people will come walking,” he said.
Across Canada, the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser exceeded the $4 million goal with more than 18,000 walkers.
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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