An annual event aimed at raising money and awareness around poverty and homelessness has gone virtual this year and you’re encouraged to join in this weekend.

The “Coldest Night of the Year” fundraiser is a COVID-safe, family-friendly walk to raise money for charities serving people experiencing homelessness, hurt, and hunger.

The Our Place Society is one of many organizations taking part across the country. All proceeds from the local fundraiser will stay in the community, helping feed those in need, provide showers and support programs and extend the hours of operation for Our Place, especially during the winter months.

In past years, participants would walk together through the city as a large group, but that won’t be the case this year.

“We’re strongly suggesting people stay in their own communities, we’re asking people to follow the COVID guidelines; it’s vital that we do that,” says Steven Seltzer, manager for special events and corporate philanthropy at the Our Place Society.

The pandemic is not stopping the fundraising effort, though.

“We still need to move ahead with fundraising in spite of the challenges COVID gave us, we still need to find the money to help our community and this is one fun way to do it,” says Seltzer. “Even though we are separate this year, we are still walking together as a community.”

It’s not just individuals stepping up. Corporate and community organizations are also taking part in Greater Victoria this year, helping to raise $115,000 so far.

Big Wheel Burger is one of the businesses supporting the virtual walk this year and is offering $10 gift certificates for anyone who signs up and fundraises; plus, $2 from every featured burger will go towards the cause.

The nationwide fundraiser started in 2011, and Victoria’s Our Place Society joined in 4 years ago, with more than 700 people registering for the walk.

Last year, across the country, 144 locations raised a record $6.25 million, with 1,600 business sponsors getting involved.

If you want to help support those in need and the homeless, there are two “Coldest Night of the Year” events taking place Saturday in the Greater Victoria area; one is hosted by the Our Place Society in downtown Victoria and the other is hosted by Our Place Society West Shore and Pacific Centre Family Services Association.