A Cold, Long Walk in the Dead of Winter
Blue Sea Philanthropy operates a national walk-a-thon fundraiser called the "Coldest Night of the Year".
The Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) is a non-competitive 5 & 10km winter walk fundraiser that supports Canadian charities who serve the hungry, homeless, and hurting in cities across Canada.
View Coldest Night of the Year website here.
CNOY allows participants the opportunity to experience a hint of the challenges faced by the homeless during a cold Canadian night in the dead of winter, while raising money for a local homelessness-focused charity or shelter they know.
In 2015, the Coldest Night raised over 3 million dollars in partnership with 87 charities across Canada, and the hard work of over 17,800 walkers and volunteers.
More WALK Details
For 2016, that date is Saturday, February 20th, 2016. Registration opens at 4:00 pm and walkers are normally released after 5:00 pm, returning an hour or two later depending on distance.
CNOY location partners host and operate the Coldest Night of the Year under agreement and in operational partnership with Blue Sea Philanthropy Inc. (BSP). In exchange for use of CNOY marketing collateral, fundraising coaching, and event management system, partners are required to provide operational and promotional leadership with a goal of raising a minimum of $25,000.
CNOY partners raise money in the WALK by recruiting teams of walkers who register to participate and fundraise on their behalf. Each partner is free to recruit teams to walk for them in any of our CNOY locations across Canada.
CNOY team captains select one partner charity to support during registration online from our list of national partners.
Our Remarkable Partners
The mix of partners that participate in the WALK is diverse. Full of rich history, deep community involvement, visionary leadership and above all, a thoroughly committed voice and heart to serve the poor and those experiencing homelessness.
How a Trip to Costa Rica Started It All
While working at International Teams Canada, a Christian NGO serving widows, orphans and refugees, I attended a national leadership conference in beautiful Costa Rica. I know - lucky guy. My friend Mika Takamaki came with me and we 'suffered' together.
On the flight down I began to think about some of the key learning we'd gathered operating the Ride for Refuge for a few years. Foremost in my mind was the memory of an early snowstorm that hit our cycling event in October, 2006. I was blown away with how 'happy' our riders were that day. It was really strange. They had to fight through snow and sludge all day - I mean it, it was really snowing, as well as windy, wet, and absolutely miserable but, somehow the adversity they all faced made their experience more meaningful.
I'm not kidding.
They all showed up and they all continued to speak of their experience, the challenge and how great they felt months after the event was done. Even now, years after the event the veterans of the 'snowstorm RIDE' speak in hushed tones together and say words like, "man, these riders don't know how good they have it" (insert mumbling and spitting).
Somehow there was a connection between not only the physical challenge, (you know, riding all those kilometers), but also in facing and overcoming the bad weather as well.
That was where the idea of a winter walk for homelessness came to mind for the first time. On a flight to the warm, humid tropics the 'Coldest Night of the Year' was born.
(Of course, it helped that in 1981 a Canadian musical icon named Bruce Cockburn wrote a great song that stuck in my mind for thirty years.)
2011 WALK - Year One
I'd spoken to a few people about the event after Costa Rica including Larry Matthews, a principle with KMA Consultants and Harry Whyte, CEO at Ray of Hope. In early December 2010 Harry committed to participating and Larry generously connected us to Ann Barnard Ball and her team at Yonge Street Mission. He also brought us into contact with Greg Paul and the remarkable community at Sanctuary. These three partners were responsible for CNOY's launch the first year. It's absolutely true. CNOY would just be an idea without them.
But not just them.
With partners in hand we turned to our charitable oversight and partners at the time, International Teams Canada, and asked for help. Within a matter of weeks, we were up and launched.
Of course, if you know anything about the WALK (or the RIDE for that matter), you know that our public presence, including our web, video, graphics, database - all of that is created and sustained by the brain of one Caleb Mueller - both friend and significant contributor.
So, with the help and support of all these friends we went LIVE mid-January. Five weeks later watched with wonder as 404 walkers raised $111,799.
2012 WALK - Year Two
In 2012, my colleague Mika hit the phones and began cold-calling inner-city missions across Canada who he thought might engage the event. Many did - more than a few didn't.
Mika lead the way in this expansion. Emails, calls, and follow-up to dozens of homeless charities and of course, he encountered plenty of rejection and skepticism along the way. But, he had some great help in his corner too. Harry Whyte and Scott Brush from Ray of Hope were strong references taking many calls from potential partners wondering who on earth BSP was.
In Toronto Ann Barnard Ball and Jon Brandt (at Yonge Street Mission), went far beyond the 'extra mile' for us as well taking calls and emails from charities wondering what the deal was with CNOY.
Between Mika's relentless pursuit of locations and our partners kind endorsements we ended up with 18 locations in 2012. We set our budget at $300,000, crossed our fingers and prayed our heads off.
When the night of February 25, 2012 came to an end we stared at the 'snowflake thermometer' in disbelief. Just under $700,000 was raised surpassing all of our wildest guesses. And even better, within 30 days we had finished the post-event processing and cut cheques to all 18 partners. They had the money they worked so hard for in hand and in use within a month of the event.
2013 WALK - Year THREE
2013 saw a surge in the visibility of the WALK event, with our returning 18 partners spreading the word about our little (but growing) fundraiser. Through word of mouth, Mika's tireless partner recruitment, and an enhanced media presence, the WALK family grew to 38 hard-working charity partners in 38 unique Canadian cities. Our original 18 brought wisdom and experience to our weekly communications, and new partners contributed excitement and buzz to the mix.
We watched in awe as our fundraising thermometer hit $500,000, then $1,000,000, finally resting at just over $1.6 million raised by over 8,000 participants for partners new and old that we had come to know as friends.
2014 WALK - Year Four
A renewed focus on partner recruitment paid off dividends in the WALK's fourth year, with a total of 62 partners making this a truly "sea to shining sea" event. From Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, to Windsor in southern Ontario, and from Nanaimo, British Columbia to St. John's, Newfoundland, we celebrated together as our participants reached our most ambitious goal yet: $2.5 million.
Over 12,000 walkers faced one of the coldest winters in recent memory to accomplish this feat, and our team reached new goals as well: with new faces amongst our staff members and a host of temporary staff, BSP handled the added load of so many more partners, participants and donors, provided a greater level of training and connection with our partners, and offered great new tools and support systems (like our "Prospects" tracking system, Team Captain email campaign, and enhanced registration training program).
2015 WALK - Year Five
2015 brought yet more expansion to the WALK, as 81 cities and towns across Canada joined in and walked together. The amazing effort of our communities meant over $3 million raised together, forming a sea of iconic white toques along the sidewalks on February 21st.
15,700 walkers and over 2,000 volunteers faced the cold in solidarity with their local charities, and we had the greatest involvement yet from many community business sponsors. Together, we covered 73,135km - that's nearly two times around the globe!
If you have any questions about Blue Sea Philanthropy, please email