OTTAWA -- Hundreds of people bundled up in Ottawa to participate in the Coldest Night of the Year in support of the Ottawa Mission.

The annual Coldest Night of the Year is a family-friendly walk held in cities across the country to support people experiencing homelessness in Canada. This year, the event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is critical for us to have an event in February," said Ottawa Mission executive director Peter Tilley during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA.

Fundraising for the Ottawa Mission helps the downtown facility provide food and shelter to hundreds of people.

"The whole idea that we could have a fundraiser towards the end of February is just fantastic. We're not a Christmas charity; people often think most of the donations come in in the weeks leading up to Christmas and then everything's going to be okay," said Tilley. "Well in this country, especially this year as we've seen, January and February can be colder than ever – and especially in these challenging pandemic times, the support is needed more than ever to get us through these months."

As of 7:30 p.m. Saturday, more than $113,000 had been raised for the Ottawa Mission during the Coldest Night of the Year event.

Participants could take part in a two kilometre or five kilometre walk, virtually this year.

Tilley says the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for everyone, and the Ottawa Mission has worked hard to support people in need. 

"We're coming up on the one year anniversary of when we as a country, and certainly Ottawa as a city, were all kicked in the shins like we've never been kicked before and our worlds turned upside down," said Tilley. "Well, for the people under our roof, they're people who are struggling through worlds that have been turned upside down – depression, addiction, mental health challenges."

Tilley adds the Ottawa Mission continues to take all steps to protect people from COVID-19.

"We've done everything we can as a shelter to put in the PPE, to put in the physical distancing, to ensure that we're sanitizing and cleaning the place like never before. Everyone comments how clean the mission is, well you ought to see it during the pandemic."

Coldest Night of the Year walks were also held in Ottawa to support the Youth Services Bureau, Capital City Mission and Cornerstone House for Women.