Sunny skies and relatively warm temperatures helped make Sunday’s 20th annual Freezin’ for a Reason polar bear swim a massive success.
Upwards of 70 swimmers, being cheered on by spectators lining the beach at Scout Island, took the icy plunge into Williams Lake in -2C temperatures on land — each accepting pledges to raise funds for the charity of their choice.
One group of swimmers — Jenna Hurley, Darby Ferguson, Eloise Hobi, Ava Johnson, Peyton Bos and Kaydence Glanville — came up with the idea to raise money for wildfire-ravaged Australia, and to help the local branch of the BCSPCA, setting the fundraising goal of $1,000.
“I wanted to do it just to jump and then my dad suggested the idea and I thought: why not do both!?” Jenna, 11, said.
Ava, also 11 years old, said Jenna brought the idea up to her and she thought it sounded great.
“I’d heard about the fires, and I love koala bears a lot, so to help the SPCA and the koalas we decided to do it.”
Another longtime polar bear swimmer, high school teacher Morley Wilson, was recognized as a “polar bear swim veteran” by organizer Sunny Dyck, who is representing the Caribruisers and BlockStars roller derby teams from Williams Lake.
Wilson said he’s taken part in the swim for “probably about 15 years” and said it’s enjoyable each time.
Dyck, meanwhile, who joked she was still in “thaw mode” Monday afternoon, said they couldn’t have asked for better conditions.
“It was unbelievably awesome,” she said. “I could not be more pleased with how the event is exponentially growing and, just the crowd alone — the first year we did it we had about 15 people on the beach watching. This year I had to use a megaphone, we had a bit of crowd control, and it was so great to have the spectators come down to cheer that many jumpers on.”
She also thanked the community for its involvement, and said it was absolutely overwhelming.
“I venture over $7,500 was raised for various groups in town,” she said. “It definitely made me tear up a bit knowing that. It’s pretty awesome.
“We’re also incredibly grateful, as well, to the Cariboo Regional District, who was a major supporter for the event, the City of Williams Lake, the sponsors and donations that came in from local businesses — it was really heartwarming to see so many contribute to such a fun, and very crazy, specific event. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Also participating were representatives from several sports teams and organizations throughout the community including the Williams Lake Gymnastics Club, Lake City Falcons girls rugby and the Williams Lake Pride Society, to name a few.