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By Connie Spuria

Now that spring is upon us, we may want to forget this winter. For Mission Services of London however, we want to remember the Coldest Night of the Year winter walk held on February 21st. Ironically, that evening was one of the warmest in a two week period. It was a balmy -2 degrees, quite a contrast from days earlier when it was -35 degrees.

"You're lucky the weather turned out good for walk day," was a comment I heard a few times. I had the same thought with great relief. And yet I wondered about our clients. Do clients feel lucky when the weather turns warmer or not exactly lucky?

The purpose of the walk is to raise awareness and funds for the hungry, hurting and homeless in our community. Our fundraising goal was $60,000 to be obtained through pledges. Just as important, we wanted to provide participants, 251 of them, with a fun and memorable evening.

We had Catholic Central high school as our "walk headquarters" again this year. We took over the entire cafeteria. Two students from Fanshawe the "X" 106.9 FM had music to create pre-walk excitement. Elsa Rose from Yoga Shack provided warm-up exercises to get everyone ready to go. Announcers Kim Woodridge and Ian Sterling from Fresh Radio 103.1 FM did a great job as Masters of Ceremonies. We even had the giant Sporty Referee mascot from Sport Clips Haircuts making people smile.

The town crier rang the bell to make it official and our two groups of walkers - 2 km and 5 km - were off. We cancelled the 10 km walk due to the Cold Weather Alert that wasn't lifted yet from the Middlesex London Health Unit. We would always want to prevent hypothermia and frostbite, for both participants during the walk and clients all through the winter.

Walkers trickled back to the cafeteria to peel off their winter layers, have a rest and warm-up with chili prepared by our Men's Mission kitchen. There was chatter and laughter from children, adults, families, friends, volunteers and co-workers. It was great to see people enjoying themselves.

I was trying to piece together some new pictures for our slideshow when a reporter from the Free Press appeared. We talked about the importance of the walk for our organization and I strived to articulate that our focus is on assisting clients. I wasn't sure if I was getting it across, so I asked him how many winter coats he had. "Oh, at least three or four," he said. We help folks who usually wouldn't have more than one. Sometimes the one came from a donor. Helping others isn’t about luck, it's about heart.

Thank you to all participants, volunteers and sponsors. We hope to see you February 20, 2016.

Connie Spuria is the Communications and Public Relations Manager for Mission Services of London. In this role she promotes events and campaigns, and publishes the quarterly newsletter, “Curb Notes.”