Trekking 20K in the Dead of Winter to Raise Awareness of the Risks of Exposure for Homeless Citizens

In February 2020, I pushed myself beyond the limits of what I saw as possible.  I showed up for myself and others in my community a part of a group of devoted hikers who set out on a 24-hour, 65 km non-stop trek, across Waterloo Region, in the dead of winter to raise awareness of the risks of exposure for homeless citizens, while raising funds for The Working Centre. 

I participated via Waterloo Region Crossing, a not-for-profit organization run by two phenomenal women, Tessa, and Ashley.  Last year 111 of us signed up and made the journey via one of three different distances — The Pioneer (10 km), The Optimist (28 km), and The Full Trek — trekking non-stop from Cambridge, Ontario to West Montrose, Ontario.

Schoolchildren designed artwork for badges that we received at checkpoints as we trekked across the Region of Waterloo. 

A ton of amazing local businesses offered in-kind donations of everything from poster-printing services to event swag, to RVs and a medical crew. 

Sponsors helped cover some of the bigger expenses, like chartering busses to get trekkers to and from the route. 

Volunteers helped guide us, trekkers, on the journey. 

Trail angels cheered us on and brought us snacks. 

Heck, Miranda and I even appeared on CTV News Kitchener, where I was quoted as saying:

“It is a really big commitment but it’s something we’re all totally committed to, to make a difference” 

Clip from CTV News Kitchener broadcast

It was quite an experience! In total, I completed 68.79 km non-stop, in roughly 17 hours and 20 minutes to raise awareness and money for those who feel the cold every day. You can read more about that unbelievable experience here.

Last year, as a group, we raised over $40,000 and every single dollar of it went directly to The Working Centre.

Participating last year was a big deal for me. I’d only started passively hobby “hiking” the prior autumn.  I say passively because I would hike 10 km, leisurely with my dog, at no particular pace with no particular goal or destination.  I just wanted to be in the great wide open. I used quotes around the word hiking because I’m not sure my strolls would be considered hikes.

This year, in 2021, due to COVID-19, the event was run virtually. We created ‘choose your own adventure’ routes and shared photos and videos of our treks within the Facebook group.   

Much less than the 65 km trek I signed up for last year,  I chose a 20 km stretch of the same route.  In fact, I trekked the same 10 km distance to and fro.

Kilometre zero for the first half of the trek commenced in Cambridge at Riverbluffs Park. My friend Miranda with whom I completed last year’s epic adventure, along with her cousin Debbie set out on a cold snowy Saturday toward the trailhead at the Grand River Conservation on Mill Park Drive, Kitchener where I would meet up with my long-time friend Barb. From there she’d join me on the return trek via the same route.

All in all, the first portion of the trek, with the snow and the cold, took us about 2h40 mins hours, on part for what we’d expected given the conditions. 

Having arrived at the Ken Seiling Museum just off the trailhead, I bid adieu to Miranda and Debbie …

… and set off with Barb on the return journey.

In certain areas, where there was no forest or natural cover, when the fields were wide open, the wind howled, it was cold. The first half of the hike included some light snow, although not photographed. Winds were out if the south north, it was -12 Celsius and felt even colder with the Windchill factor.

The second part of the trek, with the snow, the cold and sledding down the larger hills rather than trekking down them, took us about 2h45 mins. 

All in all I trekked 20.8 km today to help raise funds for The Working Centre. I’m thankful and blessed that I was able to do it with a few of the folks that matter to me most.

End note …. life happened and with no end to the pandemic in sight, it was decided to close down the not-for-profit organization. This saddens me.

Over the course of the events, the treks have collectively fundraised over $115,000 for The Working Centre. This money was used to help construct a transitional housing and medical facility for citizens seeking to break the cycle of addiction.

Trekking is a recreational activity that I enjoy. It is an activity that people of all ages can enjoy and a great way to explore the outdoors and get some exercise at the same time. For me, it’s even better to do when it’s for a good cause.

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