Robert Barron

Robert Barron

Robert Barron column: Do your part to help the homeless on Feb. 25

I never went winter camping again

Have you ever spent a night outside in the depths of a winter season?

I did one night several years ago back east after a couple of my more adventurous friends wanted to go on a two day cross-country ski trip in the woods in February, when the temperatures dropped to about -15 C in the evenings.

It was fun right up until we camped for the night and I went into my tent to sleep.

Despite bringing two sleeping bags and a heavy sweater and socks, I felt like I was freezing to death and spent most of the night trying to keep a wet and soggy fire going in a not very successful attempt to stay warm.

My friends, who were obviously more prepared for the winter conditions that I was, came out of tents in the morning looking fresh and rested, while I felt I was in a struggle for my life all night.

I didn’t have much fun the second day because I just couldn’t warm up, despite aggressively skiing, and I was more than pleased when we finally returned to our car.

I demanded that the heat be turned up full blast but I only really put the chills behind me after I got home and stood under a hot shower for almost half an hour.

I never went winter camping again.

I’ve often wondered what it must be like for many of the homeless in the community that have no choice but to spend their nights outside during the cold months, with many of them not even having the “luxury” of having a tent to give them at least some comfort.

Considering how horrible I found it after just one night outside during the ski trip, I can only imagine what the lives of the more unfortunate around us must be like on those many cold and wet winter nights that they are forced to endure.

I think it’s a good idea for folks with warm and comfortable homes to get a taste of life on the streets, and people in the Cowichan Valley will have that opportunity on Feb. 25.

That’s when local people can join thousands of others in more than 170 communities across Canada in the annual Coldest Night of the Year event, which is a family friendly winter walk and fundraiser in support of people experiencing hunger, hurt, and homelessness.

While this is only the second year the CNOY event will be held in the Cowichan Valley, the fundraiser has been held in communities across Canada since 2011.

Almost 500 people took to the streets in Duncan on a cold and rainy night on Feb. 26, 2022, and raised more than $92,000 to help the homeless as they walked either a two-kilometre or five-kilometre route through the streets of Duncan.

That was quite an accomplishment since organizers said it was expected that only about 200 people would participate, with the goal of maybe raising $50,000.

Anne Marie Thornton, manager of community engagement for the Cowichan branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association which hosts the local walk, said this year’s event is being organized in partnership with the Blue Sea Foundation charity.

She said funds raised in Duncan will go to CMHA Cowichan Valley to create a safe space and programs for homeless youth.

Thornton said organizers are encouraging teams to challenge others in the community to participate and fundraise.

She said the local goal for 2023 is to raise more than $100,000 to support vulnerable youth.

So put on your walking shoes and some warm clothes and get out there and do your part to help others and to help make the Cowichan Valley the best it can be.

It’s the least we can do.

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