‘Polar Plunge’ called successful fundraiser

The 22 participants of the 2003 “Polar Plunge” got to experience what it would be like to be an ice cube as they jumped into the frigid water of Sand Bay last Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a good way to ring in the New Year,” said Jen O’Reilly of B93 FM, who raised $210 in pledges. “I’ll do it again next year for sure.”
Each participant had to raise pledges to be able to take the “plunge,” which was sponsored by the Fort Frances Voyageur Lions Club. All proceeds will be split between the club’s Community Activity Fund and the Fort Frances Aquanauts.
“Fort Frances is a great community for giving to these kinds of events,” said Jim Martindale, president of the Voyageur Lions Club and chair of the “polar plunge” committee.
“The people of Fort Frances support good causes so well. The money goes back into the community and they know that.
“There’s not a lot of overhead so there’s good profits,” Martindale added. “We have raised probably three times as much money as last time. ”
The first “polar plunge” was held two years ago when only nine people jumped, recalled Martindale.
The 2003 edition was a marked improvement, with 22 jumpers, 300 spectators, and more than $5,500 raised. Organizers also claimed it to be the largest international New Year’s “polar plunge” in North America.
“It was just great,” Martindale enthused. “The weather was great; the crowd was great.
“As long as you can get a little sun, it’s good for the crowd,” he noted. “It doesn’t really make a big difference for the jumper.”
O’Reilly was one of two women who jumped into the cold lake water dressed in nothing but a bikini. The other was Aimee Adams of the Red Dog Inn.
“I was asked to wear it,” O’Reilly said of the fur bikini she wore. “And then it was reported on the news [on B93 FM], so I had to.
“My mentality was that less clothes, the less drippy, so the less cold it would be. It was smart thinking,” she added. “It was a little disorienting at first and I completely lost my breath, but it was really refreshing.
“I feel great now.”
Whether there’s any truth to that, only the participants would really know. However, most seemed surprised the “plunge” wasn’t as cold as they’d imagined it to be.
“It was good, better than I thought it would be,” said Lareina Jacques of La Place Rendez-Vous. “I thought it would be bone numbingly cold.”
She and Jean Marc Blanc represented the Rendez-Vous, which was one of main supporters of the event. The pair approached the 6’x8’ hole in the ice in their serving uniforms and carrying a tray with drinks on it, which they both drank before jumping in—uniform and all.
“We had a crantini to celebrate the New Year,” Jacques said.
They weren’t the only ones to sport costumes, as part of the “plunge” activities was a contest for the best one. That winner was Brendan Cumming, a former Aquanaut now attending the University of Guelph, who came wearing a mermaid outfit to take home the $75 first prize.
And he even did laps in the makeshift pool cut through 14 inches of ice over four feet of water.
“I practised last night,” Cumming confessed. “We were in a sauna, then jumped in at a friend’s New Year’s party.”
Taking second prize in the costume contest was Dale Gill, who came dressed as the “Centennial Baby”—complete with diaper and soother. Third place went to Peter Neilson who came dressed as Fred Flintstone.
“I thought that since I was born in 1967 [Canada’s centennial year], I’d go as the ‘Centennial Baby,’” Gill said. “I did the polar bear the last year.”
He also was the top pledge-earner, collecting $1,431. He works at North American Lumber and talked most of his customers into supporting him.
“Everyone that came into the lumber yard I hit them up for a donation,” Gill said. “Nobody was safe.”
Though they didn’t win, Sarah and Megan Hebert as well as Nicole Rogozinski painted their faces and went as three-fourths of the rock band “KISS.”
“It was our friend Lindy’s idea to do it,” Sarah Hebert said of dressing up like KISS, “but she didn’t come today [Wednesday]. Lindy McTaggart chickened out!”
“I thought it was going to be worse,” added Rogozinski. “It was a great rush.”
On hand as a safety precaution were ambulance attendants from Riverside Health Care Facilities as well as members of the Fort Frances Fire Department.