4th annual Cold City, Warm Hearts winter bash gets kids outside, together

Dozens of children baked bannock, stomped in snowshoes and flew down the toboggan run at FortWhyte Alive on Thursday, as part of an annual celebration of Manitoba winters.

“All of these kids deserve to have a super time and to enjoy all our province has to offer, and tonight is all about that,” said Brenda Hasiuk, vice-president of Rossbrook House and one of the event’s organizers.

The event was a partnership between Rossbrook House, an inner-city drop-in centre, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba and FortWhyte Alive.

Thursday night marked the fourth year in a row kids from the two Winnipeg centres have headed down for winter games, sledding and a pizza party.

Hasiuk said she got the idea for the event after helping sponsor several Syrian families to come to Canada four years ago.

“It was February and a lot of things were going on in the world that weren’t great, and I just felt like we needed to do something really fun and positive in the city,” she said. 

“I just thought some of these Rossbrook kids, who know a thing or two about winter … could invite their friends from IRCOM, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, and have some fun at FortWhyte.”

A FortWhyte Alive volunteer helps kids get ready to rocket down the toboggan run on Thursday night. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Keisha Thompson went to Rossbrook House as a kid and worked there throughout her teens. She doesn’t work there anymore, but still wanted to come down for the event.

“Being with kids, it’s just a joy,” she said. She said Rossbrook House has meant a lot to her over the years.

“They’ve been there since I was 12,” she said. “I’ve been working there since I was 13, all the way till I was 18 years old.”

FortWhyte Alive usually closes its doors at 5 p.m. in the winter, but opens them up each year for the Cold City, Warm Hearts event.

Liz Wilson, president of FortWhyte Alive, said she hopes to see the event continue into the future, or even expand to the summer months, too.

“It’s all about community and just getting everyone to experience nature,” Wilson said. “It increase resilience and confidence and mental health, just to spend some time outdoors — and it’s a ton of fun.”