By Stew Slater
The Stratford-based Shelterlink organization, which provides counselling and emergency shelter for youth throughout Perth County, is bringing its wintertime, scavenger hunt-style fundraiser back to St. Marys for the second straight year. And this time, it’s being offered in cooperation with the St. Marys Youth Centre.
“We’re trying to promote it to teens, and also to the families of those teens, to come out and either collect pledges or donations in support of Shelterlink,” explained Tracy Aylward, Shelterlink’s Community Resources Developer.
The organization operates an emergency shelter in Stratford, which is available to youth between ages 16-24 from Stratford and Perth County. It also offers counselling and other services to youth considered to be “at risk” of having no shelter. These youth are generally referred to the agency by high school guidance departments or teachers, but also sometimes by other community organizations.
In 2012, Shelterlink hosted its first “Night in the Cold” fundraiser in St. Marys — with the name of the event meant as an indication that they wanted participants to get a feel for what it’s like to have no safe place to spend the night.
Aylward admits, however, that the intent was never to have anyone spend a cold, winter night in the open. So this year, the name of the fundraiser has been changed to “Brain Freeze.” She says the name, along with the catchy posters that have been created to promote the event, give a more accurate impression of what the fundraiser involves: “a fun, challenging, community-wide scavenger hunt that involves being very resourceful as you follow a number of tricky clues, and eventually make your way back to the finish line.”
The Brain Freeze scavenger hunt will take place Saturday, Feb. 16, beginning and ending at the Pyramid Centre headquarters of the Youth Centre. It’s slated to run from 2-3:30 p.m., depending, of course, on whether or not the teams that sign up are able to navigate their way through the clues in that amount of time or less.
Aylward says the aim of organizers is to have a number of the scavenger hunt clues help give participants an idea about the level of resourcefulness that’s often necessary for youth to survive when they don’t have a regular place to call home.
“Pledges and donations are, of course, encouraged,” she said. “But it’s still, in the St. Marys community, also about establishing awareness about what Shelterlink provides in terms of service. It’s not just a fundraiser; it’s also a public relations and public education initiative.”
Back at the Youth Centre, Brain Freeze participants will be provided with hot chocolate, pizza and other refreshments, courtesy of generous St. Marys businesses — regardless of whether or not they collect all the requested elements of the scavenger hunt.
To register, pick up pledge sheets at Guest Services in the Pyramid Centre, or at The Flower Shop and More (147 Queen Street East). For information, contact Aylward at firstname.lastname@example.org or Candace O’Hearn at email@example.com.