The ‘coolest’ night of the year

Photograph by Kirsten Jerry

The Majestic Goddesses team at the Coldest Night of the Year walk.

What do fundraising, weather and bunny ears have in common? The Coldest Night of the Year walk in Oshawa.

Although organizers figure a Feb. 24 walk will bring with it cold temperature, it was a relatively warm 4C and sunny on when registration opened at 4 p.m. at Lviv Hall located at 38 Lviv Blvd.

Oshawa’s walk was hosted by The Refuge, an organization dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk youth.

Clarence Keesman, 43, executive director of The Refuge, walked in goalie gear because he promised to do so if the $70,000 event goal was met and it was surpassed. Donations can be still be made until March 31.

Roughly 450 people attended the event.

At the same time, 122 other Coldest Night walks were held across Canada to raise funds for various charities. The host charity is the one receiving the funds.

Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, Oshawa MPP Jennifer French and Oshawa Mayor John Henry each gave a short speech at the opening ceremonies at 5 p.m.

Attendees could walk alone or in teams.

Lauren Oak, 19, and Laura Oak, 55, of Bowmanville, who were together, and Charlie Genge, 20, who came alone and lives downtown, all volunteered as route marshals for the walk. A route marshal, Genge said, is responsible for keeping everyone on course and keeping up the energy during the walk.

One team at the walk, the Majestic Goddesses, had six members, each wearing a pair of bunny ears. Three members, Lindsay Code, 38, Benieta Santiago, 39, and Angela Santiago, 37, all walked for the first time.

Angela Santiago said that besides coming to help homeless youth the team was there to “raise money. Go out have a good walk, get some exercise. Have fun, put some bunny ears on, you know?”

Clarington Regional Councillor, Willie Woo, 64, of Newcastle also walked in the event. He walked once before four years ago when the event was held at a local school.

“I’ve put myself on the Youth in Policing team. At least my donation is for that team,” said Woo. He remembered also seeing the team at his previous walk, adding a police presence to the event.  “So, it doesn’t surprise me that Youth in Policing are here today. I think they’ve always been good supporters of The Refuge and what they do.”

The Youth in Policing program meets at Durham College on Wednesdays.

In an interview, program coordinator, Wahaj Arshad, 21, described the program as “an employment opportunity for youth in Durham Region and (we) work alongside with the Durham Regional Police.”

Supervising team leader Jasmine Singh, 17, said the students in the program are all in high school, in an interview. The age range for the program is 15–18.

The students fundraise through bake sales, car washes, events at their respective schools, and even by paying a toonie to wear casual clothes instead of a uniform for a class.

Natalie Vellapah, 19, who is also a supervising team leader, said each member was given a minimum $75 fundraising goal.

The Youth in Policing team raised the most of any team – almost $8,000 for The Refuge.

Because there was fair weather French ended her speech by saying, “it may not be the coldest night of the year, but it is the coolest.”