Some 27 people braved the icy waters of Sand Bay behind La Place Rendez-Vous on Monday afternoon for the Fort Frances Voyageurs Lions Club's annual “Polar Plunge.”
A total of $9,665 was raised for seven different non-profit organizations during the event, which takes place every New Year's Day.
Although club member Bill Michl said he was appreciative of the jumpers they had, he admitted they've had better years.
“This wasn't one of our better years as far as numbers jumping but average for money raised,” he remarked.
Michl noted he has been jumping since 2006, making this his 12th year, and said the club never is really sure just how many jumpers will turn out.
“You never know because they are told to get back to me but they don't always do that, so I never know until the day of,” he explained.
“I thought this year we were going to get lots, but then some of the people that were asking for pledge sheets never put a team in,” he added.
Michl also said they usually get a good showing from Muskie sports teams, but this year they didn't have anyone show up.
He's not concerned, though, because the number of jumpers does fluctuate from year to year.
“It's hit-and-miss-we've had as many as 72 and 16 a few years back,” Michl recalled.
Another variable in planning an event like this is the ice conditions, with Michl saying he was surprised by them this year.
“We thought we were going to have a lot of ice out there," he remarked. ”But the day we went to check it, my friend's dog went through the ice.
“That's why we don't want to be too close to the dock because that is where is worst.”
Organizers were expecting thick ice given the bitterly-cold temperatures the area has experienced of late. But in behind La Place Rendez-Vous, the ice ranged from three to seven inches thick, according to Michl.
“Ever since they removed the government dock, the current spot on this side of the dock has been worse,” he said.
Michl said the club is planning is to move to the other side of the dock for next year's “Polar Plunge,” but it will have to make a way onto the ice from the dock because of the rock embankment on that side.
This year, as in past years, the jumpers walk to the hole from shore and spectators watch from the dock.
“We'll have to make some stairs so they can go to the other side because it does have thicker ice,” Michl explained.
Still, Michl said he was happy overall with this year and appreciates everyone who came out to support the club, especially the volunteers who step up and help out so the more able-bodied club members can make the plunge.
“A big thank you to all the jumpers because we couldn't do what we do without you, and not everyone wants to jump in that cold water,” he conceded.
There was one jumper, however, who really seemed to enjoy the icy dip.
Carole Ann Myers, the first “jumper” of the day, climbed slowly down the ladder and spent a few minutes floating around in the water instead of jumping in and scrambling right out like the other participants.
It turned out she is used to taking a dip in chilly waters.
“I've never done the official 'Polar Plunge' on New Year's Day, but I swim every day in the ocean in English Bay [British Colombia],” Myers told the Times while warming up inside the Rendez-Vous afterwards.
“I love it; it's almost my addiction,” she remarked, adding she began the daily swim in December so she is used to the cold water.
Myers said she was in Fort Frances visiting family over the holidays and decided to take the plunge, helping raise $200 for the NCDS.
When asked if she will do the “Polar Plunge” again, Myers quipped that she will do it every day when she returns to B.C.—and praised the effects on her body and mood.
“It gives me energy and makes me feel strong—the after-effects are so worth it,” she enthused.
“Even a cold shower is beneficial and you feel the effects right away if you can stand it,” she laughed.
Following the plunge, jumpers were invited into the Rendez-Vous for chili and hot chocolate while club members handed out prizes and thanked everyone who participated.
The top individual fundraiser was Andrea Turgeon, who raised $1,150 for the “Friends of Animals” here.
Darrol and Elana Van Deventer raised the second-largest amount ($1,000) for the Ditshego House of Laughter in South Africa while Parker Boyd came third with $718.50 for the “Friends of Animals.”
The “Friends of Animals” jumpers collected the largest group total with $2,789.75, earning them an extra $300 from the club for their charity of choice.
The group also included Dahlia Kaun, Kylie Ellis, Ingrid Ellis, Claudia Ellis, and Harper Gunderson.
The Fort Frances High School French class jumpers raised the second-largest group amount ($2,165).
They consisted of Mackenzie Taylor, Siobhan Mackintosh, Jessi Armstrong, Callum Galusha, Brody Lloy, Giselle Smith, Avery Cates, Ali Jackson, Byron Stewart, and Aiden DeGagne, along with teachers Erika Handberg and Dany Michaud.