A few courageous members of the Owen Sound and District Junior Optimist Club team for Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) spent the night outdoors on Friday, February 18, to raise awareness and funds for those who are experiencing housing insecurity in our area.
As the weather forecast called for high winds and blowing snow, 13-year-old Isaac told his mother, “There’s no way we are going to reschedule this for the weather, because people who actually sleep outside don’t get to choose.”
Members had already raised enough funds to earn their CNOY toques and wore them proudly throughout the evening and even overnight. They realized that wool socks and hats were crucial to staying warm through this cold winter night.
As stated by 13-year-old Axton Ellis, “It gives you a better appreciation for what you have.”
They experienced the challenges of staying outside from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m., but they persevered. One youth and his mother used an ice fishing hut, with a tarp on the ground, and had to anchor it down after it got caught in the wind. Two other youths were up at 5 a.m. putting their tent back together after the weight of the snow caused the tent poles to separate. None of this was easy but these four youths and their three adult chaperones have a new understanding of a few of the many challenges faced by those who don’t have stable housing.
All funds raised on Owen Sound’s CNOY page will go to the local Safe ‘N Sound Drop service. Fundraising Coordinator Michelle Solaro indicated Safe ‘N Sound provides crisis intervention, emergency phone lines, transitional housing, harm reduction initiatives, onsite nursing on Tuesdays, laundry, showers, coffee, Grab n Go lunches (provided by O’Share), computers and referrals to other services. Safe ‘N Sound has also been the only warming centre open during this winter’s COVID restrictions.
Additional members of the Junior Optimist Club are going to do a walk for CNOY on February 26, and all of the club members want to encourage community members to give generously to CNOY to support this vulnerable population: https://cnoy.org/location/owensound. The Club also wants to express their heartfelt appreciation for the numerous ongoing donations to the winter clothing drive set up at Mark’s, the YMCA, and the Annan post office. Items most needed are new or gently used hats, mitts, sleeping bags and warm blankets, new underwear and new warm socks.