A winter tradition will look different this year, as the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser will be done virtually.

Dennis Chippa, executive director of The Gathering Place, which is hosting the event, says the goal of this year’s fundraiser goes beyond raising money. 

“We want to show folks around the community that we have each other’s backs,” he said. 

The event would normally have hundreds of people join together for a mapped-out walk in late February with a gathering held afterwards. 

Due to the provincial lockdown, this year’s event encourages people to walk a route of their own while taking pictures, which will be posted on social media on the day of the walk. 

“I think it’s a really nice anchor for the community even though we can’t get together like we normally would,” commented Chippa. 

Chippa is hoping people will participate in their own way, while still finding the generosity to donate to the cause. 

“We don’t want to put too much pressure on the community to donate to us,” he said, adding this year’s goal of $35,000 is lower than last year’s target. 

The money raised will go toward supporting the operational costs of The Gathering Place, which Chippa says has been busy for the entirety of the pandemic.

Between the kitchen on Cassells Street and its newly-launched food outreach program, Chippa estimates over 2,000 meals per week are being served by The Gathering Place. 

As for generating the community feel that Chippa fears will be lost this year, he encourages people around the district to display light of some sort in the front window of their homes. 

“Be bright that night,” he said. “Everybody knows the (COVID-19) vaccines are there. We do know that there will be an end in sight. Not right away, but there is an end in sight.”

The Coldest Night of the Year is held in cities around the province to raise awareness and money for homelessness and food insecurity. 

The event is officially on February 20, with donations currently being accepted online by clicking here.