With the temperature hovering around minus -30 C (22 below zero F), about two dozen people jumped into Sand Bay here for the Voyageur Lions Club’s annual “Polar Plunge” on New Year’s Day.
Those who took part managed to raise $6,581 by 1 p.m. on Jan. 1.
And as frigid as it was behind La Place Rendez-Vous, many people came out to watch the jumpers—two of whom even jumped in the icy water twice.
“About $2,700 was returned immediately to local non-profit groups, including the Fort Frances High School Travel Club [Italy trip], Border Skating Club, Sunset Country Squash Club, Rainycrest Auxiliary, Dancemakers School of Dance, and Canadian Cancer Society [‘Relay for Life’],” said club president Bill Michl.
“The numbers were down a bit,” conceded Michl, who has been jumping since 2005.
“[But] I find when the weather’s colder, the water feels better,” he noted.
Michl jumped a second time for another Lion who couldn’t make it last Wednesday.
“I found that second jump, you got cold fast,” he admitted.
Michl also extended a big thank you to all the clubs that participated.
“Keep on coming out because for all of our programs, we rely on the generosity of the community,” he stressed.
“It [the ‘Polar Plunge’] is one of our bigger fundraisers.”
For many of the jumpers, it was their first time taking the plunge.
“It wasn’t actually that cold, your body just kind of stops,” noted Laura Cochrane of the Border Skating Club.
The first-time jumper said she might do it again. But although she’s unsure, Cochrane said she inspired her younger sister to try it next year.
“It wasn’t as cold as I expected,” echoed fellow skater Brianna Eldridge.
“My body froze; it kind of just stops,” she added.
What surprised skater Jamie Spencer wasn’t the temperature of the water but the depth.
“I didn’t think I’d go under since I’m taller than four feet,” she reasoned.
Rainycrest Auxiliary jumper Margie Van Drunen said it was coldest on her feet.
“It went invigoratingly well; it was refreshing,” she added following her first plunge.
Fort High art teacher Owen Johnston, who was jumping for the travel club’s trip to Italy, has jumped at least nine times in past years for various causes.
“I’m guessing this was the coldest I’ve ever been out there,” he remarked.
“We were lucky there was no wind,” Johnston added. “I remember 2009 was really windy and snowy.”
This time around, Johnston was accompanied by four teens who will be heading to Italy in the spring.
“I think some are going to try it again,” he laughed.
“They didn’t understand when I was saying they were going to be addicted—that they would want to try it again—until after they went in,” he added.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see them come back.”
First prize for “Best Costume” went to Border Skating Club member (and purple minion) Aurora Hutton, with toga-wearing Mason Whatley (representing the Fort High Travel Club) taking second.
Jamie Spencer, another Border Skating Club member in a tutu and pigtails, won the third gift card to Diana’s Needlework.
The top three fundraising teams (not including the Lions Club) were the Canadian Cancer Society ($1,202), Border Skating Club ($1,075), and Rainycrest Auxiliary ($1,069).
All three teams received a plaque.
The Emo and District Lions Club was next at $860, followed by the FFHS Travel Club ($545), the Sunset Country Squash Club ($380), and Dancemakers School of Dance ($200).
The host Voyageur Lions Club brought in $1,210.
Individuals (not jumping) garnered the other $40 to the total raised.