Even though it wasn’t the coldest night of the year, hundreds of people still took to streets in support of the Truro Homeless Outreach Society.

For the third year, the society played host to the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser on February 25. Thanks to 54 teams and close to 400 walkers, it has generated more than $79,000 for the non-profit organization, which is on the verge of starting construction on a brand new shelter this spring.

“I think everything went really well. I was really excited,” said Autumn Doucette, co-ordinator of the walk. “Just the excitement people have for this event is overwhelming. I can’t believe the love shown for this shelter.”

This marked the first year Doucette took over the reins of the society’s largest fundraiser. When she agreed to take it on, the event was just several weeks away which meant the pressure was on.

With a strong support team around her, she says things slowly started to come together.

“I’ll be honest, a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure where we were going to land,” she chuckled. “We set a goal of $75,000 which was down from last year but I still felt like that was high. I just kept checking the website and watching the totals. A week before the walk, all of a sudden the donations started coming in and they just kept coming and coming. It was late in that week I started thinking the $75,000-mark was definitely achievable.”

The fact this was the third event also helped take some of the pressure off.

“When it comes to returning teams and walkers, for the most part, they know what to do,” said Doucette. “Many of the team captains are familiar with the process so it was a matter of just seeing if we could support them in any way. But they had everything under control so that allowed us to focus our attention on other things like sponsorships.”

Coldest Night of the Year events take place in more than 100 communities across Canada on February 25. The national goal was $4 million which was surpassed. According to the website, Truro’s effort has it 13th in the country in terms of total funds raised.

However, according to Doucette, it’s believed the money that hasn’t come in yet will push them close to $80,000 which would elevate Truro’s walk into the top 10 nationally once again.

“In order for us to achieve what we did, we needed the community to rally around us and they did just that in a big way,” said Doucette. “It really opened my eyes.”

This also marked the first year East Coast International came on as lead sponsor of the walk. The business is in the process of building a new location in the Millbrook Power Centre.

“We are very excited to be the lead sponsor for this great event,” said Paul Ward, Chief Financial Officer for ECI. “It’s a tremendous event supporting a great event in our charity in our community. I had a chance to meet with members of the Truro Homeless Outreach Society and get caught up on the building plans. I wish the organization nothing but success moving forward.”

Participants have the option of walking two, five or 10 kilometre distances. The event is held in February because it typically has the coldest temperatures. By walking in cold temperatures, it’s designed to give participants a taste of what it’s like for someone who has nowhere to turn.

The predominantly mild winter continued on the day of the walk bringing bright blue skies, sunshine and above seasonal temperatures.

“It kind of defeated the point in one sense but in another, I think we can thank the weather for bringing us more participants,” said Doucette. “It was a beautiful day. We definitely know it wasn’t the coldest night of the year.

“Even though this has been a mild winter, the truth is the nights and even the days are still cold,” continued Doucette. “That doesn’t factor in some of the winter elements as well. Our visitors are out there rain or shine, warm or cold. Following the walk, we actually had some people commenting about the water that was accumulating on the sidewalks. Our people who visit the shelter don’t have the option of staying inside so they don’t get their feet wet. They’re out there, regardless of the elements.”

After co-ordinating the event for the past two years, Cheryl McLeod made the difficult decision to step away from the responsibilities in 2017. However, in addition to serving as part of Doucette’s support system, she also took part in the event, which is something she never had the chance to do.

“I was really able to enjoy the excitement of being a participant,” said McLeod. “Raising money wasn’t any different because I always did that but I usually ended up walking the route alone a week before the event. Walking with the big crowd was so amazing. I was able to see a side of the walk I had never experienced before. I was so proud and excited to see that many people come out.”

With a focus on breaking ground at its new Mills Street location, Doucette says there has been a bit of preliminary discussion about hosting a concert in the park this summer. However, nothing has been confirmed at this point.

“We have had a number of people ask us about the event so we know it’s something the community enjoys,” she said. “However, it’s going to be a busy spring for us with the construction of the shelter so we will see how things progress from there.”

To see video and a photo gallery from the Coldest Night of the Year, visit www.hubnow.ca.