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'Hard not to feel proud': Newmarket breaks records to help homeless

Coldest Night of Year annual event raises more than $172,000 for Inn From the Cold in Newmarket, while the Richmond Hill event raises more than $146,000 for Blue Door
More than 450 people gathered at Riverwalk Commons for the Coldest Night Walk in support of Inn From the Cold Feb. 24. File photo

Blue Door CEO Michael Braithwaite said he could still feel soreness in his legs after this year’s Coldest Night of the Year event.

Although the walk is about five kilometres maximum for most, Braithwaite decided to walk more than 30 kilometres for the national event, which raises money for housing charities like Blue Door.

Despite the challenge, he said it was worth it to raise funds and awareness for homelessness.

“I feel like I’ve aged 30 years. My feet are all torn up,” he said, but added, “It was good. It was a good feeling, too.”

Hundreds attended to raise funds for the Coldest Night of the Year in both Newmarket and Richmond Hill Feb. 24. The event runs across the country, with different communities taking part for different charities. The Newmarket event for Inn From the Cold has raised more than $172,000, while the Richmond Hill event saw more than $146,000 raised for Blue Door.

It was a record-breaking year in Newmarket, Inn From the Cold said, with the total well above a $90,000 goal and 456 walkers taking part. The Newmarket team headed by Mayor John Taylor and featuring several council members placed as the third-best fundraising team in the country with $35,805 raised, with John Taylor himself raising $29,000. 

“It’s hard not to feel proud of Newmarket,” Taylor said about the event’s record numbers during a Feb. 26 council meeting. "Not all communities are as welcoming and supportive, and our community is saying loud and clear that we’re not going to be OK with — or accept — people living without an option to sleep somewhere safe and dignified. I think it’s a powerful statement by the town and all residents.”

Inn From the Cold executive director Ann Watson said it is greater to see all the people willing to walk in support of addressing homelessness, with 458 participants, only about 100 directly connected to the charity.

 "The rest are just people in the community who care about people experiencing homelessness," she said. "It's always amazing to me how many people register and come out and are really enthusiastic about the walk."

Watson said they were worried about the fundraising levels given the increased cost of living, but participants still stepped up. 

“I’ve never seen anything like the community of Newmarket, it’s really remarkable,” she said.

Watson said the funding goes into operations and is flexible, allowing them to put the dollars where needed to support programs like their growing transitional housing.

“A big thank you to everyone in Newmarket,” she said. “We really appreciate their time and support.”

The Richmond Hill event garnered more than 500 participants, Braithwaite said. Funding goes to Blue Door programming, namely its Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold program, which provides shelter for many experiencing homelessness during the winter. 

Braithwaite, who raised $11,925 himself, said the event gives a positive boost to efforts to address homelessness.

“We ride a huge wave of energy off this,” Braithwaite said. “It shows us that people care, Canadians care, communities care, and it just gives us that motivational push forward to do more.”

You can still donate to both causes through the Coldest Night of the Year website, with donations accepted through March 31. The Newmarket fundraiser is available at, and the Richmond Hill one at