Last year’s polar bear swim saw some participants dress up in costumes before taking the icy plunge.

Last year’s polar bear swim saw some participants dress up in costumes before taking the icy plunge.

Polar Bear Swim organizers want another non-profit group to take the plunge this year

Calling all community organizations looking to keep a Williams Lake tradition alive

Are you part of a service club or community group looking for an exciting and well-established fundraising campaign? Do you want to see a Williams Lake tradition live to see another day?

Last week, the Rustlers Rugby Club announced that after 17 years of jumping into the frigid water of Williams Lake they will no longer be running the popular Polar Bear Swim event in January.

However, Roy Argue, the club’s secretary, says he would really love to see another community group take on the event, which sees swimmers raise pledges before taking the icy plunge.

“In the early years, we used the event to raise about $15,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters,” he said. “After a few years of raising money for them we worked with the high school rugby team where we had more attraction to the event. In one year we raised $22,000 to help fund the high school boys rugby tour to Europe.”

In the event’s most successful year, they had 285 people launch themselves into the arctic water and about 500 people out to watch and cheer on the swimmers. According to Argue, the Polar Bear Swim in Williams Lake was the second largest one in all of B.C. during their peak years, coming only after the Vancouver event which sees thousands of participants each year.

Argue noted that this year, “we’re just not able to find someone who is willing to take on the lead over the holidays. It’s a fair bit of work and we’re running out of people who want to take something like this on.”

Despite a lot of help from the community, including local businesses like B&J Trucking who have donated generously to the event over the years, the rugby club has decided to cut ties with the event.

“Personally I would be happy to share more details and answer any questions with any group or organization that would like to take on this awesome, free public event,” Argue added.

“If it was a group’s first year getting something going, we might even have a few bodies that could help on the day of.”

He admitted that there is a small cost to hosting the event with lifeguards and insurance, as well as heated change rooms to help get the blood flowing again but that the club has always been very happy with the results of the day.

Traditionally, the swim is held on January 1 with registration at noon and plunges beginning at 1 p.m. Argue advised that anyone thinking of taking the event on should have “dedicated volunteers who are going to show up regardless” of some headaches or inclinations to stay in bed after a night of celebrating.

However, he also sees holding the event on New Years Day as an advantage as “there’s really nothing going on in town that day” and the event can be quite entertaining for those looking to kickstart the new year with some excitement.