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Take a walk in their shoes

Do you think you could spend a night on the street? How about just one hour? In the middle of winter
Diane Palmer

Do you think you could spend a night on the street? How about just one hour? In the middle of winter.

Campbell Riverites can test their mettle next month during the Coldest Night of the Year.

Though the event doesn’t always live up to its name in our temperate climate, it is a chance to get a small taste of what it’s like to live on the streets.

On Feb. 25, the community is invited to join around 100 communities across Canada in walking to support and raise awareness of the plight of those who are hungry, homeless and hurting.

This year for the first time, Campbell River Family Services is partnering with the Grassroots Kind Hearts Society, a philanthropic non-profit that feeds the homeless each and every night.

Paul Mason of Campbell River Family Services said he recognized the good Grassroots has been doing and wanted to help.

“They scrape for every penny they get and this is a good opportunity for them to get some revenues for what they want to do moving forward,” Mason said. “And we thought it was a good opportunity for them to create more awareness around what they do.”

As a partner, Grassroots will split the proceeds from the event with Family Services. Diane Palmer, vice-president of the Grassroots board, said the money will be put towards an indoor venue for volunteers to serve meals out of. Currently they are feeding those on the street from outside the downtown fire hall.

“Because we’re entirely volunteer-based, everything goes back to feeding and ideally, getting a roof over our heads,” Palmer said. “Although the city has provided us with an outdoor location, it’s cold outside and we feel that the need to move indoors is imperative to those that we serve.”

Grassroots was started a few years ago by Krisandra Rufus who started making extra dinner to bring to her family and friends living on the streets. Her efforts evolved, volunteers were recruited and Grassroots was registered as a society in order to move towards getting a roof over the volunteers’ heads to better provide the basics such as food, shelter and access to other service agencies.

Grassroots subsists on donations from the community and the volunteers who make the dinners and serve them every night.

Palmer said Grassroots was recently approached by Chiang Rai Noodle House which has offered to provide a meal, free of charge, on the first Tuesday of every month for the entire year.

“It’s a huge commitment, but they’re very committed,” Palmer said. “I would encourage other businesses in town to do the same if at all possible.”

Palmer and Mason are also asking for local businesses to consider becoming a sponsor of the Coldest Night of Year walk. Businesses that are interested in getting involved are asked to contact Paul Mason at 250-287-2421 or Diane Palmer at 250-287-4324.

And of course, they’re looking for members of the community to sign up for the five kilometre walk which takes participants through the downtown core.

Walkers can sign up as individuals or with a team at,

Registration begins at 4 p.m. the night of the walk, with opening ceremonies following at 5 p.m. at the Community Centre. The walk begins at 5:15 p.m. and winds up back at the Community Centre around 6 p.m. with complimentary hot chocolate and chili.

Mason stresses that the Coldest Night of the Year is a “family-friendly event” and not a race. But more than anything, he said, the walk is an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues people face on the street.

“As a community event, it does bring people together and it’s a family event that allows you to experience what it feels like to be out in the cold, if only for an hour,” Mason said. This year’s goal is to raise $30,000 locally through the walk.

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