Windsorites brave the cold for a cause
By Danielle Gagnier
Windsorites braved the cold to help The Downtown Mission raise 80 per cent of their goal following their fifth annual walk-a-thon.
The Coldest Night of the Year is the main fundraising event for The Downtown Mission. Participants walk either two, five or 10 kilometres to support and raise awareness for the homeless population in Windsor-Essex. Their goal was to raise $40,000.
Around 300 people attend the walk each year. The event was on Saturday, Feb. 25 and while it definitely was not the coldest night of the year, it certainly was the coldest night of the week. The average temperature for the week prior to the walk was a high of approximately 16 degrees Celsius. The high during the day on Saturday was only 13 degrees and temperatures dropped below freezing by the time the walk started.
Despite the snow, participants walked through the streets of Windsor to show their support for The Downtown Mission. Alana Rourke-Beemer walked for the first time this year with her husband and five-year-old daughter and said she felt a real sense of community.
“It definitely felt like a fellowship – everyone coming out together and supporting this great charity,” said Rourke-Beemer. “[It’s important] to support the people that need it. It brings a community together and there aren’t any outsiders. We’re a big family, a big community.”
Adults, children and even pets participated in the walk. A group of high school students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at École Secondaire L’Essor volunteered for the walk-a-thon. Matti Brannagan, one of the high school students, said she thinks the event is great for the community.
“I think it’s very important to show support for everyone in our community,” said Brannagan. “It’s really important to raise money and to raise awareness.”
The mission serves around 750 meals per day and around 50 people stay there every night. Approximately 1,100 people use to the food bank every month, one-third of whom are children. Fiona Coughlin, director of development at the mission, said it costs only $3.11 to feed one person and every donation counts.
“What I was really trying to press upon our walkers tonight is that together we’re changing the landscape of homelessness in Windsor-Essex so everybody walking together really makes a difference,” said Coughlin. “We are about to open an 80 bed wellness centre and that’s because of these people. Each time people come out and they walk and they wonder whether it does something, it really does.”
Coughlin also said The Coldest Night of the Year event is very close to her heart and she loves seeing the increasing number of people walking each year.
“It really brings the entire community together supporting the people in need – the hungry, homeless and hurting,” said Coughlin. “There’s people who come here for food, there’s people who come here for shelter, but there’s a lot of people who come here for companionship. When the whole community shows that kind of support, it really achieves the goal of addressing the human need for each individual that walks through our door.”
The Downtown Mission has been operating for the past 45 years to support those in need in the community. They started with food banks, serving hot meals and donating clothing and recently received funding to expand their programs. Sections of the new wellness centre are already open to the public and more grand openings will occur throughout the month of March.