SAULT STE. MARIE -- An annual walk to help the most vulnerable is going virtual, but is still maintaining enthusiasm amongst its participants.

Organizers of the 'Coldest Night of the Year' walks in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie say the order was given by the Blue Sea Foundation that all of the walks across the province would be held virtually this year, coinciding with the provincial lockdown.

"It's been a bit of a challenge, but we're certainly making it through," said Jennifer Sarlo, co-event director for the Sault's event. "We've got 92 walkers, 20 teams and three weeks left and our fundraising numbers are great."

Sarlo and St. Vincent Place, a food bank and men's shelter in the Sault, have hosted the event for several years. But with COVID-19 now affecting much of the city's homeless and impoverished population, she said the charity event is important now more than ever.

"I've been volunteering at the food bank for a while myself," she said. "But now, you do see the need and the loneliness and the lack of support that they may feel, we can't gather for our meals on Wednesday nights."

In Sudbury, The Samaritan Centre said that need is also great. According to its executive director, the high demand is a large reason why people will still be participating this year.

"People are aware of the needs of our clients," said Lisa Long. "They're aware of how COVID has been particularly hard on, particularly costly to the vulnerable clients we've served."

Long said participants will be able to choose how they want to walk and for how long.

She and Sarlo are encouraging more people to sign up, with the event going on February 20.