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CCS turns attention to Coldest Night of the Year following successful Holiday gala

January 13, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Rob Paul

The annual Home for the Holidays Gala is one of the highest regarded and most important events in Caledon each year. In support of Caledon Community Services (CCS), the gala brings people together to help those in need.

For over 20 years, the gala has strived to engage the community while fundraising for programs and services that feed the hungry, ensure senior independence, help people find sustainable employment, assist businesses grow healthy workforces, provide transportation, encourage and train youth, welcome newcomers, and lift the self-esteem of hundreds of children by providing tangible supports including organized recreational and camp opportunities.

It’s a one-of-a-kind event that means so much to the Caledon community and for the last two years the gala has been virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the pivot, the gala once again was a massive hit.

“The Home for the Holidays Gala was very successful again this year. The amount raised just tipped over $165,000—it was phenomenal,” said Donna Cragg, CCS Director of Communications and Marketing. “We’re really happy to see how much online engagement there was; a lot of people were engaging through social media and people were getting dressed up to enjoy the evening. It really was the highlight of the season for a lot of people. I know for myself it kind of kicked off the Christmas season with all the spirit.”

With it be the second time the gala was virtual, Cragg said they were able to learn from last year’s event and make it even sharper this year. 

“We were virtual last year also, and the feedback was positive again this year,” she said. “This year, it was a tighter program and people actually appreciated that. Last year, it extended longer into the evening and this year people appreciated how succinct it was. We had three hosts instead of just two this year and they had a lot of fun with it and people really enjoyed it.”

With the gala now behind them, CCS is getting ready for a relatively new event that’s becoming paramount to their annual efforts of making a difference.

Coldest Night of the Year is a national family-friendly walk to raise money for vulnerable families and individuals.

Each year, tens of thousands of Canadians leave their homes to spend time walking for a cause in the cold of winter. The walk has raised over $43,500,000 since it began in 2011 and it’s a new addition to Caledon. 

“Right now, we’re jumping right into prepping for the Coldest Night of the Year—the national walk for the hurting, hungry, and homeless,” said Cragg. “We brought that to Caledon three years ago—2020 was the first year—and there’s 168 communities participating this year all across Canada on February 26. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do it as an in-person event since the first year. 

“The in-person event really shows the camaraderie when everyone gathers to share hot chocolate and soup. This year it’s not to be again with the recent shutdown so we’ll be doing the walk virtually again. People can sign up as individuals or a team and they can peer-to-peer fundraise and they can set their own route of two, five, or last year my group did 10 kilometres.”

With this being the third year CCS has run the Coldest Night of the Year walk, it’s beginning to build a following in the community and reaching both people who have participated in the walk outside of Caledon and new walkers.

“It’s a newer event for the community, although it has gained traction each year,” Cragg said. “What’s happening is people that live in Caledon but were interested in helping their neighbours through means like that actively had been participating in walks in other communities because we didn’t have one. Now they’re all slowly starting to ‘come home’ and participate in Caledon’s to have their efforts count here as well. It’s been really lovely to see.”

As the Coldest Night of the Year approaches, Cragg hopes that CCS not only hits its fundraising goal but also sees an increase in those participating. 

“Our Coldest Night of the Year fundraising goal for this year is $40,000 and last year was just shy of that,” she said. “Every year we want to increase our goal slightly and more than that what we’d like to see is increased participation. We had 124 walkers last year and we’d like 200 walkers this year.”

With the pandemic continuing to impact what people can do this time of year, Cragg sees the walk as a great opportunity for those in the community to safely get together for social interactions for a good cause.

“It was really enjoyed last year by a lot of people, and I think because of the COVID lockdown it was an outlet for boosting spirits,” she said. “This year we hope that the current regulations hold, and people will be able to gather with their families and friends in groups of 10 to walk together. It helps the people in need, but the walk also helps the walkers and there’s always that aspect to doing good anyway. People do it because it’s a feel good—they get to do something worthwhile, and it feels good when you can walk with a group of friend’s outdoors who you haven’t been able to spend time with. It’s really a boost to the benefit during COVID. Last year that factored in, and this year I think it will factor in even more. Having to backtrack to Stage 2 has hit a lot of people really hard and now a lot of people know people who are ill with COVID, and it feels like you can’t escape it this time around so hopefully this can be a bit of an escape. I’m looking forward to it already, it makes me excited to know there’s something to look forward to down the road.”

For nearly two years CCS has been running events virtually due to COVID-19 and though it’s different, the most important thing Cragg says is ensuring the community is informed to keep them engaged. 

“It’s not more difficult, it’s just very different doing things virtually,” she said. “Different skill sets are required and there are different focuses and emphasizes on where your energy needs to be put when planning that. One of the biggest things is getting the information out because it’s easier when it’s person-to-person, but when it’s going to be 100 per cent virtual, it makes it even more enticing for people when they see it from various sources—locally in the press and we’re upping our social campaign this year and we’ll be looking at other methods of getting the word out also.”

Social media has become one of the key pillars for CCS in recent years because of its reach and the way it drives community engagement and shows just how important the fundraising they do is for the vulnerable.  

“It’s really important to be involved in social media,” she said. “People respond to people and when we can share photos of either what we need or people participating, it really engages people. We’ll be doing our social tagging and making that very apparent when we roll that out in the coming weeks. We’ll have a hashtag that we’re hoping absolutely everyone who participates in anyway echoes so at the end you have a solid body of content to use to show and demonstrate the impact.”



         

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