Charities across Canada are benefiting from the most unusual Coldest Night of the Year to date.

Coldest Night is a COVID-safe, family-friendly walk that was held on Saturday to raise money for charities serving people who are homeless, hurt, and hungry.

Since 2011, it’s raised over $33,500,000 in 149 communities across Canada.

Despite being held virtually for the first time ever, this year’s event exceeded expectations.

Combined, participants raised $9,367,407 at 149 locations. That’s 117 percent above the original goal of $8 million.

Nicholas Carney is CNOY’s director of participant and donor support. He said they were “cautiously confident” going into this year’s fundraiser.

“We have still been blown away by the success across the board,” he said. “We’re stunned, we’re so encouraged. The big win was that it wasn’t as though a ton of new charities joined and we just sort of had excess fundraising from that. It was just tons of charities that have been part of it for six, eight years, that had their best years ever, doubling and tripling their goals, so we were really impressed.”

Usually, volunteers and donors gather to walk together; however, due to COVID, CNOY organizers asked people to walk on their own time, while participating virtually as a team or individual.

Carney said participants found a way to make it work.

“A lot of families and small groups of teams if the local restrictions allowed for it,” he said. “So it was very different as opposed to the centralized thing. We had people hiking in the woods, doing the local neighbourhoods, some people just on treadmills, so it was very different.”

In the Campbell River/North Island areas, the Campbell River and North Island Transition Society is the organizer.

They’ve raised $29,785, so far, which is 85 percent of their goal of $35,000.

Meanwhile, in the Comox Valley, the event was hosted by the Comox Valley Transition Society and Dawn to Dawn.

In the valley, 79 teams have raised $170,700 there, which is 141 percent above their goal of $121,000.

And in Nanaimo, ICCS Nanaimo led the charge.

They’ve raised just over $53,000 so far, which is 117 percent higher than their goal of $45,000.

The fundraising doesn’t stop on Saturday. Participants are encouraged to get out there, raise money and walk any day this month, not just on the 20th.

You can find out more about CNOY here.