COCHRANE— Gathering together on one of the coldest days of 2021 so far, Cochrane High School students raised more than $3,000 for the Coldest Night of the Year.
About 25 students from Grades 9 to 12 took to the streets for the Coldest Night of the Year walk on the afternoon of Feb. 12— A day where temperatures hovered around -35 C, said Cochrane High School Grade 9 French immersion teacher and Volunteer/Interact Club coordination Erica Fredstrom. The students walked a three-kilometre trail at the Tri-School site starting at Cochrane High.
“It was fun and it was interesting because the day before school had shut down due to the cold,” Fredstrom said. “They [the students] were pretty gun-ho.”
So far, the students have raised $3,100 for Coldest Night of the Year through the fundraising efforts of 15 students and anonymous donations from the community.
The Coldest Night of the Year is a national fundraiser that raises money and awareness for those experiencing homelessness— The ultimate goal is to support Canada's hurt, hungry and homeless. This year marked the first time the event has taken place in Cochrane, and together the community raised more than $40,000.
The Cochrane High walk was organized by the school's Volunteer Club. Fredstrom described the youth in the club as empathetic and eager to take on tough projects.
She added as a volunteer group 2020 and 2021 have been difficult because they have not had opportunities to connect and gather with the community— Coldest Night of the Year was one of the first times the club was able to do so this year.
“We’re trying and we’re reaching out to see what we do and this was a great opportunity,” Fredstrom said.
The Cochrane High Volunteer Club learned about Coldest Night of the Year from Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area who organized the event for the town.
The walk proved to be the perfect event for COVID-19, she added, because the youth were able to raise money for an important cause while following provincial public health guidelines.
It is important students have the chance to engage and work with the community because it helps them to learn the importance of empathy and helping others in need.
“What we’ve been learning is that if we engage in helping others, we ourselves feel better,” Fredstrom said. “We’re in a time of high anxiety, lots of stress, and when we start planning and organizing things that have to do with being of service for others, our mental health improves. We feel better.”
Coldest Night of the Year offered the Volunteer Club a valued opportunity to engage in fundraising while showcasing the importance of raising awareness for vulnerable populations who are experiencing homelessness.
The walk showcased the difficulty vulnerable populations experience when it is -40 C and they have nowhere to go, Fredstrom said, adding students appreciated experiencing what it is like to survive in the extreme cold. It is especially important in Cochrane because the community is not always exposed to those who experience homelessness, even though it remains an issue in rural areas.
She is proud of her students for engaging with the community, Fredstrom said, and the club’s students continue to inspire her.
It was her first year organizing Coldest Night of the Year for the school, she said, and getting the walk off the ground proved to be a difficult but rewarding experience for the volunteer club.
“As a volunteer club we struggled to find hands-on opportunities to engage with the community,” Fredstrom said.
The Volunteer Club has a busy year ahead as it is planning to transform from a volunteer club to an Interact Club.
The Interact Club will be sponsored by The Rotary Club of Cochrane and will allow students to grow while providing more opportunities for volunteering, leadership experience and scholarships.
The Volunteer Club was based on the act of engaging in hands-on opportunities with organizations in the community. The Interact program is an internationally recognized organization affiliated with Rotary International. Fredstrom said the move to become an Interact Club will offer new and exciting opportunities for Cochrane High Students.
“When I presented the opportunity, they [the students] really jumped on it so I’m pretty excited,” Fredstrom said.