The average temperature in La Ronge, Sask. overnight Saturday was about -19 C, and felt like -31 C with the windchill, but that didn't stop a group of fundraisers from spending the night outside.
The group — including Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band — raised money for an outreach program that helps people in the area who are struggling with homelessness and addictions.
The Scattered Site Outreach Program provides meals and a warm place for homeless people in La Ronge. Cook-Searson says it recently expanded its hours to provide help 24 hours per day, and its staff were so busy it was turning people away.
Cook-Searson initially planned to raise $1,000 herself, but reached the $5,000 mark before she stepped foot outside. She told CBC News Sunday morning the group that stayed outside with her raised a total of $13,000 for the program.
She said some clients stayed with the people who were camping out, and they shared coffee and other meals when they went in to use Scattered Site's services from time to time.
'We need to give them all the support that we can give them to be able to make a better life for themselves and their family' - Lac La Ronge Chief Tammy Cook-Searson
Cook-Searson said she was glad the forecast for Saturday night warmed up from even cooler temperatures that were initially expected, but said it wasn't easy. She said she was thinking of people who have to deal with cold nights all the time, often without warm enough clothing.
"It was pretty cold, but as we got into the night it actually warmed up," Cook-Searson said. "Temperature-wise, the wind died down, so we were blessed that way."
The group started a campfire in a bin at one point.
"As we got colder we got more innovative into how we could get warm," she said.
Chief Cook-Searson says the night spent in the cold weather gave her a new appreciation for Scattered Site's clients.
"They're people and they have feelings, and people who just want to have a chance," she said. "We need to give them all the support that we can give them to be able to make a better life for themselves and their family."