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Walkers embrace the cold for Why Not City Missions

Local NewsWalkers embrace the cold for Why Not City Missions

Over 130 people joined the thousands of Canadians across the country as they participated in the annual Coldest Night of the Year walk, hosted by Why Not City Missions, on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

The walk has been running locally for 13 years and is a chance to both spread awareness, and reduce youth homelessness within the Brantford community.

Individuals and teams alike, gathered inside the Mohawk Park pavilion to check-in, grab a Coldest Night of the Year toque and button, and listen to a few words from local dignitaries.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to be here and I’ll be the first one to tell you that the government cannot do everything for everyone,” said Will Bouma, MPP for Brantford-Brant. “But, the reason I love serving the Brantford-Brant community is because we have so many incredible stakeholders and organizations that work quietly in the background, and Why Not City Missions, is one of those. To see a big crowd like this coming for the walk and to see the incredible fundraising that’s been going on, it’s just stunning.”

Participants pose for a photo during Why Not City Missions’ Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

Before the walkers set out on either their 2.5 km or 5 km walk, Karen Stewart, executive director for Why Not City Missions, took the opportunity to thank team leaders who helped raise funds for the event, including Amanda Roorda of the Skyline_Brantford team who raised $21,000 (funds partially matched by Skyline Living), and Phil Gillies who raised over $3,000.

“This is our major fundraiser, so every year we bump up the goal a little higher and we just keep meeting it because our community is just amazing,” said Karen Stewart, executive director of Why Not City Missions. “Our goal this year is to raise $57,000 and today we’re sitting at 93 per cent ($53, 278) of that goal, so it’s getting close but there’s still time to donate for the next 30 days so I’m sure we can push our way closer and reach that goal.”

It was also announced that the organization recently received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation that will help to resurface an outdoor space for the youth involved with Why Not.

Why Not City Missions staff pose for a photo during the Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

Funds raised from the event will ultimately go towards supporting all of the Why Not City Missions programming.

“That includes our youth centre, our Charlie’s house which is for young men, as well as our SHYP program which is supportive housing for young parents,” said Stewart. “So, we’ll divide the funds and use it for all of those programs across the board.”

Stewart said that when it comes down to it, the organization’s mission is simple.

“It’s empowering our youth through relationships. How we do that is pretty broad, but it’s both really simple and complex all at the same time,” she said. “We really build a relationship first and that is so, so critical to whatever we do with our kids, we have to have that relationship established,” she said. “We really pour into them, we build trust, we have fun and we are just there for them. As they get to know us and trust us, then we start to gain some insight into their life, what they need and how we can support them.”

Participants start their walk during Why Not City Missions’ Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

She said that surrounding youth with support and a network can do wonders for their futures.

“There’re no bad kids, they are products of environment and circumstances. Yes, sometimes bad behavior comes out, but man, they’re just kids that are looking to try to figure this world out and we’re trying to help to help them with that. We really wanted a way to help them be ready for life and so that’s where our support of housing models came out of. We teach life skills, and we encourage them to finish high school or set some new goals and they do it. It’s really amazing what they do when you start to put a support network around them, it’s like they start to thrive, and they start to look at themselves and go ‘hey I did that.’”

Participants check in at the Mohawk Park pavilion before heading out for Why Not City Missions’ Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

She noted that they can’t do it alone and that they are grateful for their community partners.

“We can’t be everything for everybody, so we really connect with community partners. We want to build a network around our kids because most of our kids don’t have the support networks that I think everybody has. If you don’t have a support network, sometimes you don’t successfully get very far in life,” said Stewart. “You just need people and that’s what our kids need, so we intentionally built those connections and community partnerships. It’s great because we can bring our community partners in to where we are because that’s where our kids feel safe and it’s on their turf, so ultimately, they can start to feel safe to utilize those services.”

As walkers returned from their walks, Why Not City Missions staff and volunteers helped serve up some hot Italian Wedding Soup, a vegetarian soup, as well as chilli, coffee and hot chocolate.

Participants gathered inside the Mohawk Park pavilion before heading out for Why Not City Missions’ Coldest Night of the Year walk on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

Krista Haluik, who works for the Why Not City Missions SHYP program and who leads the SHYP Mates team, was one of the many people participating in the walk for the first time.

“I thought it was great and it was really nice to get out,” she said. “It was a bit chilly, which obviously fits the name, but it was great,” she said. “I did the shorter walk this year because I had littles, but next year I think I’ll be doing the 5km for sure. Overall it was great to be with so many smiling faces and of course coming back and getting some delicious food was just the cherry on top.”
The fundraiser total is currently sitting at $55,253 and people can still donate until the end of March by visiting https://cnoy.org/location/brantford

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