Yards for Hope sets new donation record for Edmonton’s homeless community

Click to play video 'Yards for Hope campaign raising money at Commonwealth Stadium' Yards for Hope campaign raising money at Commonwealth Stadium
WATCH ABOVE: The annual Yards for Hope campaign kicked off Wednesday morning at Commonwealth Stadium, where the gang from CISN Country is raising money to help end homelessness in Edmonton. Kendra Slugoski explains.

An annual fundraiser in support of Edmonton’s homeless community has hit a new donation record.

Yards for Hope had an initial goal of raising $110,000 for Hope Mission. As of Friday morning, the total had reached $186,430.

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The fundraiser got underway at Commonwealth Stadium early Wednesday morning. The campaign and radiothon raises funds and awareness for Hope Mission, an inner-city shelter that provides meals, a warm place to sleep and other essential services for the city’s homeless community.

“This is a big part of our yearly campaign for fundraising,” Kelly Row with Hope Mission said Wednesday.

“It’s not just the money that comes in, it’s the awareness — building the awareness of what Hope Mission is doing and the people we’re helping.”

As part of the fundraiser, the Morning Show team from CISN County 103.9 — Chris, Jack and Matt — camped out at the football stadium. The team started at one end of field and moved down the turf one yard at a time, for every $1,000 donated.

READ MORE: CISN Country Yards for Hope radiothon breaks fundraising goal for Hope Mission

Within the first few hours of the campaign Wednesday, Yards for Hope had already raised $23,000.

“We still need a couple big passes, a good run, we need to punch one in here,” CISN Morning Show host Matt DeBeurs said. “We’re a ways away. We can’t rest on our laurels. We’ve still got yards to eat up here. 110 per cent, team effort, we’re going all the way.”

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The campaign wrapped up Thursday morning.

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Over the past decade, the campaign has raised more than $1 million for those in need in the city.

“We have been on this field for four years in a row now doing Yards for Hope and this is definitely the coldest and the breeziest it’s been,” Jacqueline Sweeney said Wednesday.

“But the biggest dose of reality. This is what our homeless in our city are facing every single day. And to them, in the middle of winter, this is a warm day.”

READ MORE: ‘Living rough’: A glimpse into Edmonton’s river valley homeless

The funds raised from Yards for Hope will go toward Hope Mission’s October campaign, the annual Thanksgiving dinner and other services, including the Crisis Diversion Team.

Ryan Harding has been part of the team for 18 years. Members like Harding head out into the community to provide meals and other services to those who may not feel comfortable in a shelter setting. They’re also called out to help vulnerable Edmontonians who need assistance, in situations where police may not be needed.

“We’re able to divert crisis away from emergency services,” Harding explained.

“In between those calls, we’re out building relationships with people, using things like bag lunches, using food. We say hope begins with a meal. That’s very true with our services as well.

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“We know them by name and even when they’re not in that crisis, maybe we can talk about different options, whether that’s housing or addictions programming. For a lot of people, though, it literally can be — especially as we get colder here — a life and death situation.”

Click to play video 'A closer look at Hope Mission’s Crisis Diversion Team' A closer look at Hope Mission’s Crisis Diversion Team
A closer look at Hope Mission’s Crisis Diversion Team

Hope Mission serves about 1,200 meals per day and when the temperature takes a dive, that number can spike up to about 2,000.

“It’s $2.70 a meal,” Row said. “Our big ask during the radiothon is, ‘Can you afford $54 to help feed 20 people per day?’

“It’s a mountain of small donors. We’re not one of the organizations where we have these big corporate backings. It’s really a mountain of people that care and do what they can do help. It’s small donors, a multitude of them, that adds up.”

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READ MORE: New stats show increase in Edmonton homeless camps

Fundraising for this year’s Yard for Hope is now closed, but you can still donated to Hope Mission by calling 1-855-836-HOPE (4673) or donating online.