Although the Fort Frances Voyageur Lions Club’s annual “Polar Plunge” survived the threat of thin ice, fewer jumpers than expected plunged into the frigid waters of Sand Bay on New Year’s Day here this year.
Nineteen jumpers took the plunge and raised $7,222.
“I was kind of disappointed with the numbers because I handed out quite a few pledge packages,” admitted club member Bill Michl.
“We usually get a bigger support from the high school and the minor sports, and this year they just weren’t there.
“That was disappointing but I was really happy with the group that did show up,” he added.
Michl didn’t think the lack of ice leading up to this year’s “Polar Plunge” was a factor that led to fewer participants.
“Usually the pledges go out in late October to early November,” he noted.
“These people that got pledge sheets should have picked them up at lot early than before they knew the ice may not be there.”
Although Michl had anticipated a larger group, he expressed his appreciation for those who did turn out Friday afternoon.
“Really appreciate the community support for all these pledges that have been raised,” he said.
“Fort Frances is a perfect community to live in and there’s lots of support for the Lions.”
This year included plenty of first-time jumpers, as well as some who not only faced the challenge of jumping in cold water but also unfamiliar water.
Lori Leduc of Red Deer, Alta., said the “Polar Plunge” was her first time jumping into any lake.
“It was awesome but cold,” she remarked.
“If I’m back here for Christmas next year, I definitely will jump in again,” she added.
Leduc raised $80 for the “Friends of the Library” because of the importance of the library to her family.
“My Grandma Boileau [Jean] used to have a huge impact with the library,” she recalled,
“And my Aunt Andrea works there and then my mom volunteers there now,” she added.
Kylie Ellis, who hails from Australia, also took the plunge for the first time.
“We were terrified but it wasn’t that bad,” said Ellis, who jumped in with her friend, Peta Risojevic.
“The worst thing was the feet—that was a bit painful,” she recounted.
“Everything else was fine.”
Ellis, Risojevic, and Ellis’ two daughters collectively raised $963 in support of the Fort Frances Friends of Animals.
“They do a good job rescuing, rehabilitating, and re-homing dogs and cats in Fort Frances,” Ellis reasoned.
She added her friends in Australia were unaware of her chilly plunge but they soon would know about it thanks to photos on Facebook.
Some youngsters also took the plunge for the very first time this year.
Ellis’ daughters, 13-year-old Ingrid and eight-year-old Claudia, along with 11-year-old Kenzie Begin, all braved the cold water for the first time.
“It was really cold and it hurt, but it was worth it,” Ingrid said while warming up afterwards with hot chocolate and chili.
“It was really fun but it was really cold,” echoed Begin while noting she would considering doing it again.
The Ellis’ were part of the group that raised funds for the local “Friends of Animals.”
“Me and my family like to foster a lot of animals, so we thought to give back and because we like animals,” Ingrid reasoned.
Begin, meanwhile, entered as a individual and collected $355 for the Fort Frances Community Chest.
“I was supporting ‘Community Chest’ because it’s for a really good cause and they give to sick families,” she explained.
The duo of Ryan Scott and Shelby King raised $593 for the Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope in Atikokan.
This was the second-straight year the two teens jumped in the lake in support of the shelter.
Scott said they chose to support the shelter last year because of a suggestion from her mother.
“It’s fun being able to raise money for a good cause,” added King.
Both plan on returning for a third time next year—and hopefully will talk some friends into joining them, as well.
Sarah Pruys and Kari Manty both decided to take the plunge while they were here visiting family during the holidays.
“It’s the third time I’ve done the ‘Polar Plunge,’” said Pruys, noting she last took part in 2011.
“It just worked out I was still here for New Year’s Day this year and I really wanted to do it again just for fun,” she remarked.
“I was asking my friends and my cousins, trying to find someone who would do the ‘Plunge’ with me, and I found Kari and it worked out perfectly.”
“I originally didn’t have any intentions of doing the ‘Polar Plunge,’” Manty admitted.
“My aunt was planning to do it. She did it last year and it was an exhilarating experience for her,” she recalled.
“She wanted to do it again but she wasn’t able to due to health reasons.
“I could jump for her; she could jump vicariously through me,” Manty reasoned.
The duo raised $310 in support of the local Breast Health Network.
“When my aunt was planning on jumping, that’s what she was going to support so because I was jumping for her, I decided to support the same cause,” Manty explained.
The group of Kent and Joanne Ogden, Jodi Pellerin, Danette MacIntyre, and Victoria Hammond collected $2,336 for the Emo & District Lions Club.
Bill Michl and Dale Gill, meanwhile, raised $1,080 for the host Voyageur Lions Club while fellow club member Wayne Lundstrom garnered $120 for Lake Joseph Centre-CNIB.
Nancy Daley Fulton was the top fundraising individual after collecting $1,385 in pledges for the Fort Frances branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Second place for most pledges went to Kylie Ellis ($700), followed by Begin in third ($355).
The best costume award went to Leduc, who was decked out as “Supergirl.”
Manty took second place while Pruys was named the third-place winner.
As well, any jumper who raised $100 or more earned a “Polar Plunge” toque for their efforts.