The Fort Frances Voyageurs Lions Club’s annual “Polar Plunge” seemed to be reinvigorated with youths this year.
A total of 44 jumpers, which included a local minor hockey team and the Muskie senior girls’ volleyball squad, took the icy dip into Sand Bay on New Year’s Day and raised a combined $13,256.50.
Club member Bill Michl was quick to declare this year’s “Plunge” to be a success.
“Real successful because of a lot of new jumpers and different groups,” he enthused.
“We used to get a lot of the Muskie sports teams,” Michl noted. “We didn’t get a whole bunch of that this year, but we got the PeeWee hockey team and ‘Friends of Animals’ and stuff like that that we don’t normally get.
“The amount of money brought in was right up where we were expecting to get,” he added.
Although there was plenty of ice at the jump site itself, organizers were concerned beforehand by the many air pockets nearby.
“The ice itself where we checked it was good, we had lots of ice,” Michl stressed. “But there were a lot of air pockets around.
“One of our workers went through [on New Year’s Eve] when we were shovelling off the ice, and my son’s dog jumped off the dock and went through,” he recalled.
“That’s why we were trying to keep the crowd off the ice because we didn’t know where the air pockets were,” Michl explained.
“Where we cut the ice and where we made the hole was six-plus inches, but two feet over was an air pocket,” he reiterated.
Fort Frances Lions’ PeeWee hockey players Joe Hardy and Kael Archie hit the water with their teammates, and were among the many first-time jumpers Sunday afternoon.
“It was scary at first,” Hardy admitted. “[But] when I first jumped in, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s OK,’” he recalled.
Hardy beat a pair of teammates to the water by being the first to jump.
“I thought I would get out first but, unfortunately, my friend, Kael, got in front of me in the ladder race,” he laughed.
“It was cold,” added Archie. “When you jump in, it [the water] is probably only a little bit under your shoulders.
“It’s kind of hard when two or three people are trying to climb up the ladder, so you just got to find an easier way to get out.”
The teammates first considered being a part of the “Polar Plunge” following a tournament in Emo back on Dec. 9-11.
“When we won the Emo tournament, we thought we should give back to the Lion Club since we won and they were sponsoring us,” Hardy recalled.
“After practice, coach Myron [Williams] asked if anybody wanted to, and lots did, but some couldn’t because they were going away for Christmas,” Archie noted.
Hardy advised the “Polar Plunge” is best for people who don’t mind feeling cold.
“If you want to be cold, and if you don’t want to feel your toes or your entire body for a while, you can jump in the lake for the ‘Polar Plunge,’” he laughed.
Some veterans jumpers also were part of Sunday’s festivities.
Shelby King, a Grade 11 student at Fort High, took the plunge for a third time. And she convinced fellow Grade 11 student Jocelyn George to jump for the first time.
“It was pretty cold and shocking,” George conceded. “But it was also pretty fun.”
King said the “Plunge” can get easier each year you do it.
“You’re kind of prepared for what’s happening,” she remarked. “You can’t really do anything about your feet freezing to the ice, though.
“You know what to expect,” King added. “But then again, you don’t because it can be colder or warmer.
“I think the first year I did it, it was minus-30 outside,” she recalled.
The duo, along with Ryann Scott, collected $535 in pledges in support of the Shelter of Hope in Atikokan.
“It’s for women and their children, a place for them to go,” King explained, adding the funds will go towards clothing and food.
“We’re going to drive down there this month and take the cheque to them, and say ‘hi’ to everybody at the shelter,” she enthused.
The group of Penny Hutton, Aurora Hutton, Victoria Sabo, Derek Winchester, and Peta Risojevic collected the most pledges with $1,685 in support of the “Friends of Animals.”
Archie, Hardy, and Lions’ teammates Chris Williams, Parker Nastiuk, Trayden Calder, Scott Kivimaki, and Alex Carter collected the second-most ($1,562).
Meanwhile, the Fort Frances Jail group of Grant Swire, Crystal Skrien, Don Gavel, and Sheldon Bourassa, members of the Institutional Crisis Intervention Team, garnered $1,250 in pledges in support of the “Community Chest” and the Voyageur Lions.