Choices for Youth (CFY) held its Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) 2023 WALK on February 25. Temperatures dipped as low as -27 with the wind chill, but the energy and enthusiasm of over 300 walkers, volunteers, and sponsors generated enough warmth for all. For the first time since 2020, teams and walkers gathered for good in person to navigate a 2.5km route through downtown St. John’s in support of CFY.
CNOY was created in 2011 to raise funds for community-based organizations while giving participants a hint of what it might be like to experience homelessness. Choices for Youth has organized annual Coldest Night of the Year walks each February since 2013, with virtual walks being held in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
#CNOY23 represented a grand return to in-person walks. The cold air was thick with excitement as approximately 300 participants representing 36 teams and supported by a team of 50 volunteers arrived at Atlantic Place on a chilly Saturday afternoon.
Route Marshalls, bundled in their warmest attire, stationed themselves strategically along the route to keep walkers on the right path. Jumping Bean poured a steady supply of coffee and tea to give participants an energy boost ahead of their journey. Walkers streamed into the venue to register, grab some CNOY swag, and fill out colourful paper snowflakes to adorn the Wall of Walkers.
HOT 99.1 FM’s own Brad Michaels kicked off the event, welcoming all participants and reminding the crowd to be safe and stay on the approved walk route. CFY Executive Director Sheldon Pollett took the stage to reiterate the important role that CFY serves in the community, and how events like CNOY allow CFY to continue operating programs and services that support youth.
Sheldon gave special shout-outs to the top fundraisers and teams – Hatch Frosties, Joe’s Team, and Team Verafin had the highest fundraising totals with Jim and Denise Hapgood, CFY staff member Julia Elliot-Gulliver, Karen Perry, and Mark Cumby leading the way as individual fundraisers. Rhonda Goodridge, Marketing Manager for Eastern Edge Credit Union and Reddy Kilowatt Credit Union, shared greetings on behalf of the Lead Sponsor organizations before Brad reclaimed the microphone to start the countdown that began the Coldest Night of the Year walk.
Walkers and teams filed out of Atlantic Place shortly after 4:00 pm. Pedestrians waved, motorists honked, and participants cheered as the spirited column weaved its way along the downtown streets. The procession moved at a brisk pace to keep warm, receiving some extra help on that front from Starbucks, who had a team of enthusiastic volunteers stationed at the rest stop outside of CFY’s Duckworth Street office ready to greet walkers with a warm smile and an even warmer cup of hot chocolate. Photographers Alick Tsui and Ocean-Dawn Gale snapped shots as the convoy made its way past the War Memorial before looping down to Harbour Drive to the finish line back at Atlantic Place.
Participants were grateful to grab a seat and enjoy a reprieve from the cold upon their return. A special feeling filled the Atlantic Place as walkers chatted among themselves while refuelling on a medley of sandwiches, wraps, and muffins catered by Jumping Bean. The moments immediately following the walk served as a great reminder of the value of a safe roof and a warm meal on a winter’s evening. Walkers remarked on how much they enjoyed the day, and many were already looking forward to returning in 2024.
CFY’s CNOY 2023 was not only a successful walk – it exceeded all expectations as a fundraiser. The $50,000 fundraising goal was eclipsed days before the first walker had even arrived at Atlantic Place, and as of this writing, over $70,000 has been raised for CFY.
CNOY 2023 would not have been a success without the support of an incredible group of volunteers and sponsors – Lead Sponsors Eastern Edge Credit Union and Reddy Kilowatt Credit Union; Rest Stop Sponsors The Home Depot and Lindsay Construction; Route Sponsors Co-operators and Avalon Mall; Media Sponsor HOT 99.1 FM; and Goods and Services Sponsors Martek Morgan Finch, Alick Tsui Photography, iDesign Ltd., Starbucks, and Jumping Bean Coffee.
CFY is still accepting Coldest Night of the Year donations for 2023. Visit cnoy.org/stjohns to donate. Donations benefit Choices for Youth and allow us to continue operating our programs and services that support youth in our community.
Written by Chris Morris