William Walkey is either a marketing genius, or one of the unluckiest men in Elmira. The student teacher at Park Manor Senior Public School spent 24 hours in front of the Foodland in Elmira to raise awareness for the Coats for Kids campaign at Park Manor Senior Public School on Jan. 13 and 14. Coats for Kids is an initiative started by Grade 6 students at Park Manor back in November to collect gently used coats and donations for less fortunate children throughout the township. So far they’ve collected about $400 for the cause.
Temperatures over the course of last Friday night were the coldest they had been for much of the winter so far, at one point touching minus-11 degrees Celsius without the windchill.
“I should have waited until the summer,” laughed a frigid looking Walkey on Saturday morning. “Coats for Kids in August just doesn’t have the same appeal, though.”
He made plans to spend the night at the store several weeks ago, and it wasn’t until the middle of last week that he realized just how cold it was going to be. An avid camper during the summer, it was the first time Walkey had slept outdoors during a frigid winter night.
“I have about three sleeping bags, a foot of insulation underneath, two blankets over the tent, and then a tarp over that,” he said. “I nicknamed the shelter an iceberg and it got kind of chilly at some points.”
He said that students from the school braved the cold to visit him at various times during his venture, and many brought him hot beverages to try and boost his spirits. He also said the response from the public was favourable and that he had collected a number of donations in a blue water jug.
“The kids who started Coats for Kids were doing such a great job that I offered my services here for a little bit of an incentive and motivation, and to show them what one simple thought can lead to,” said Walkey.
“I just want to show them that everyone at the school is behind them – the teachers, the staff and even the community as a whole.”
The 24-year-old Waterloo resident currently splits his time between Wilfrid Laurier University and Park Manor. During his practicum he spends several consecutive weeks at the school, otherwise he is at the school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“Right now I’m on my two-day cycle, which kind of limits how I can get involved, but the students find a way to keep me involved and accept me into the school community,” he said.
Walkey also tried to record his experiences during the night using a video camera but there wasn’t enough light, so he sent out a few messages on his Twitter stream instead.
The toughest part of the entire ordeal was waking up Saturday morning, when the outside temperature was minus-10 degrees, the temperature inside the tent was about four degrees, and the temperature inside his sleeping bag was a toasty 30 degrees.
“It’s been quite an experience, both physically and mentally.” For his efforts, Walkey managed to collect $295 and 10 more coats. To make a donation to Coats for Kids contact Park Manor, located at 18 Mockingbird Dr. in Elmira, (519) 669-5183.