It may be the Coldest Night of the Year but it’s bringing out Gravenhurst’s boundless community spirit.
On Feb. 26, Gravenhurst Against Poverty (GAP) will host the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser – a family-friendly walk to raise money for people experiencing hurt, hunger, and homelessness.
The event includes groups from across the country but no one does it quite like Gravenhurst. As of Jan. 12, Gravenhurst has the most walkers of any group in Canada, the most groups and the most money raised with $52,771.
“We got a bit of an earlier start this year and it’s really been amazing,” says Bryan White, who helps to organize the event for GAP.
The first two years taking part in the event, GAP set and hit a target of $50,000. Despite the cloud of uncertainty cast by Covid last year, GAP decided to set an ambitious target of $90,000.
“There was a lot of trepidation about going virtually and what the response would be,” says White. “We absolutely smashed it. The love and support for GAP within Gravenhurst is fantastic.”
White says the goal this year is to have an in-person event, but if they need to they can switch back to a virtual format. Last year, participants did their walks on their own and then posted selfies.
While the virtual response was tremendous, White says there’s nothing quite like seeing a group of 200 to 300 people strong, all wearing their colourful Coldest Night toques and walking through the streets of Gravenhurst in a united front.
White says the money raised goes to help tackle the three “H’s” in Gravenhurst: the homeless, the hungry and the hurt.
“People might look around and say there aren’t any homeless in Gravenhurst – they’d be wrong,” says White.
The core GAP programs supported by the Coldest Night fundraiser include their food program, which packs and delivers food for some 550 clients in south Muskoka. They also operate a no-cost taxi program in conjunction with Bala Taxi to set up rides for essential in-town trips for medical appointments, groceries, work, food bank and laundry. A volunteer diver service is also helping to fill in when needed.
GAP also works extensively on mental health initiatives in the area, including their current goal of creating a community hub with a dedicated young adult centre.
“The need is great, but the heart in this community is even bigger,” says White. “There are so many people involved with GAP in one way or another.”
White says he became involved with GAP roughly two years ago when he saw the work they were doing in the community, and his work with the group has only continued to grow.
Evidence of the community support for GAP is no more apparent than in the organizations and individuals who have stepped forward to take part in the Coldest Night fundraiser. This year GAP was looking for new title sponsors and quickly had two – Muskoka Bay Resort and Cruickshank & MacLennan law office, who stepped forward with significant financial contributions.
That being said, there’s still plenty of time to get involved.
“You can walk with a team or start your own, sponsor someone else or donate – there’s a place for everyone,” says White.
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