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Alyssa MacKinnon believes in the generosity of Islanders.
And they gave her reasons to believe on Saturday – thousands of them.
MacKinnon was one of hundreds of Islanders who raised a total of $53,067 for Harvest House Ministries P.E.I. through the Coldest Night of the Year charity walk Saturday in Charlottetown.
“I think it’s really important,” she said. “Not that it’s something we feel good about, I guess, but it’s more something that kind of raises awareness that we do know there are Islanders today, tonight and tomorrow, that are going to be out in the cold.”
While MacKinnon wasn’t able to attend Saturday’s walk in person, her team, The Young and the Breathless, raised $1,105, she said.
“Robin (Graham) and I basically just took to social media and we were asking people for donations like, ‘Hey, listen, we’re raising money for Coldest Night of the Year’.”
Coldest Night walks took place in more than 150 Canadian cities, raising money for hunger, hurt and homelessness, said John Bennett, the director of Harvest House. While most walks were virtual because of pandemic restrictions, Charlottetown was one of six cities that hosted in-person walks.
“We’re feeling very blessed to be in P.E.I,” Bennett said. “This is our ninth year of walking, and this is what helps us keep running at the local outreach (centre) that we have here.”
Harvest House is a shelter and outreach centre in Charlottetown. The initial outreach was established by Cal Maskery of Harvest House Atlantic (Moncton) in 1998. Bennett has been involved with the organization for 15 years.
When Coldest Night of the Year began nine years ago, Harvest House was one of the original partners, he said.
“It’s been a lifeline for us, really helping us bring the community together and bring resources and funds into our outreach so we can do what we do.”
Need to know
- The Coldest Night of the Year raises money for Canadians experiencing homelessness, hurt, and hunger.
- The event began in 2011 in Toronto and Kitchener/Waterloo, Ont.
- The event has raised more than $33.5 million since its inception.
- In 2020, nationwide fundraising totalled $6.25 million.
Sue Huizing helped organize walkers as they showed up for the event at Central Christian Church, holding a Coldest Night sign and acting as a crossing guard. She was also captain of the top fundraising team, GBC - Not Fast Or Furious, which collected $5,208.
She emphasized the need for young people to learn about what others are experiencing in their city.
“As our clients walk by the kids they're realizing, ‘Hey this guy’s got no socks on, this guy’s got no gloves,’ or something like that. They're realizing this is a problem in our community that we can help with,” she said.
Huizing was pleased by the youth’s response.
“The really cool thing is, we got 50 kids out as route marshals on a Saturday and they’re all standing out in the snow for like three-and-a-half hours,” she said. “They’re just like, we want to help.”
While fundraising by individuals is important, more support for community organizations is needed, MacKinnon said.
“Without pressure, I don’t think anything will happen,” she said.
Too often, those in power think problems will go away if they just ignore them, she said.
“We’re not going to forget. It’s not going to go away.”
Keeping the conversation alive pushes politicians to respond, she said.
“The ultimate goal is to be as annoying as possible and show how many people are on our side.”
Bennett said his hope for the walk was to see the community come together. For MacKinnon, that’s exactly what the event achieved, even if she couldn’t witness it herself.
“When we all stand together, there’s nothing we can’t do.”