Several community leaders and personalities in Vancouver spent Thursday night in the biting cold in a bid to raise awareness and money for homeless youth.

The group slept in a parkade on top of cardboard mats with sleeping bags with the goal of raising $110,000 for Covenant House, a shelter and support organization for homeless young people. In the end they smashed that goal and collected about $250,000 in donations.

According to Covenant House, on any given night there are between 500 and 1,000 young people sleeping outside throughout Metro Vancouver. But this is not a choice.

Darren McClelland of Imperial Parking, who participated in the event, was struck by how challenging the experience must be for youth.

“The thing that really kind of came across to me is I just couldn’t imagine being out here alone. We’re lying here with 17 of us in a group, but to me doing this in a corner by yourself without a sleeping bag and without gloves and a toque would be pretty scary,” he said.

For eTalk’s Lainey Lui, spending the night in the cold was eye opening.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, and I mean that’s the point: to make it something tangible for those of us who are so lucky not to have this be your reality. Never done it before and won’t ever forget it,” she said.

The event started last year in New York. This year 12 North American cities participated and together raised $2 million.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Brent Shearer