YWCA Brandon’s sixth annual Keeping Spirits Bright campaign is looking to light up the community with holiday cheer while encouraging people to get active for a good cause.
“We’re really raising some money to try and finish off our year in a positive way and be able to continue providing our services into the beginning of 2022,” said Heather Symbalisty, the executive director of YWCA Brandon. “Times are tough. We’ve created a really good partnership with our sponsors CW2 Construction and Design and Guardian Fencing, so we’re looking forward to seeing how many people register and how much money we can raise.”
The YWCA officially launched the Keeping Spirits Bright virtual campaign on Wednesday. The event kicked off with a virtual tree lighting. Keeping Spirits Bright runs until Dec. 31.
To help visualize the funds being raised, a Christmas tree on 11th Street will see additional lights lit as the month progresses and more money is raised. The ultimate hope is to see the entire tree lit up and shining bright by the end of December.
It is $25 to register for the event and people can walk, run, bike or get active in any way they choose for the month of December.
During Keeping Spirits Bright, participants can record how far they travel and collect pledges for the YWCA while out doing their walks in the community.
She added participants can go visit Map My Run to track how many kilometres they have travelled.
Symbalisty said the goal for 2021 is to raise $20,000 in support of the YWCA.
“The weather is perfect to get out with your co-workers on your lunch hours, on your coffee breaks and get your bodies moving to help our organization just to keep going,” Symbalisty said.
Funds raised during Keeping Spirits Bright help ensure the YWCA can continue offering programs to clients and keep staff on hand for the first quarter of 2022. These resources and services are essential, Symbalisty said, because it allows the YWCA to aid people moving into independent living or experiencing a crisis.
“We only have so many budgeted dollars, and we sort of run out and have to pull back on our spending,” Symbalisty said.
She noted COVID-19 has made it difficult to raise funds over the last 18 months, and this need for donations has been amplified because the YWCA does not always qualify for grants it applies for.
Currently, the organization is looking for increased funding for the women’s gender-based violence shelter, along with dollars to help keep carrying on with some children’s programming and ensure they can have a child-care worker on site during the week.
In 2021 alone, the YWCA provided services to more than 500 women and children in the Westman region. Symbalisty added the organization has also been helping support some people from Winnipeg as shelters are extremely full in the capital city — when they can accommodate it, they will bring people to Brandon as needed.
“Every dollar helps,” Symbalisty said.
The services offered at the YWCA are imperative, she added, because many of the clients they work with, including youth, come from incredibly traumatic backgrounds or situations.
The YWCA ensures they have a safe place to land.
“No one, you or I, could imagine some of the stories we hear coming from them,” Symbalisty said. “It’s very difficult — my staff have been working 24-7.”
Regardless of the adversity they face, she said, Symbalisty and her staff remain committed to helping the community. She hopes the Keeping Spirits Bright campaign will help them raise the funds to do so.
Symbalisty added she is looking forward to seeing people wearing Christmas gear and dressing up to enjoy the holiday season during the campaign.
“We look forward to seeing pictures and hearing about everybody enjoying and being challenged to get active and put on those kilometres,” Symbalisty said.
For more information on Keeping Spirits Bright, visit ywcabrandon.ca/events.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun