Cold winds and cloudy skies couldn’t keep Yellowknifers from jumping into frigid Long Lake at the 10th Annual Polar Plunge on Saturday.
Eight teams and close to 30 people raised a record–breaking $19,885 for Special Olympics NWT by running into the waters that measured a chilly two degrees Celsius on the morning of the event. The funds will go towards training and travel costs for Special Olympians of the Northwest Territories.
Craig Broome was this year’s top fundraiser, bringing in $1,230.
“The money goes directly for athlete training and travel to different competitions. It goes towards renting the facilities here in town, so all money goes towards NWT Special Olympics,” said Lee Martin, director of the event.
This year’s plunge was dedicated to Lee-Anne Tomkins, a longtime volunteer with the Special Olympics who passed away a few months ago after a battle with cancer. To honour her legacy, five of her friends immersed themselves in the freezing lake.
“Lee-Anne was the top donation earner every year for the past nine years, we are all good friends of her’s and we are doing it in her memory,” said Renee Jones, shortly before she ran into the frigid waters. “I’m very nervous, but fine, committed… however, I know I only have to get as far as the ice and back because I know that’s how far Lee-Anne went every year.”
The ice Jones was referring to was approximately 10 metres from shore. Organizers spent close to three hours on Friday night clearing it out before being called back early Saturday morning after freezing overnight temperatures caused more ice to build up.
Though participants had different reasons for joining in on the fun, they were all in agreement on one thing.
“I’m a little cold, I can’t feel my feet right now,” said Phil Youngblut from Team Antarctica
“It’s pretty cold,” said Melanie Renaud of the Municipal Enforcement Team.
“A little chilly, there’s chunks of ice, it was cold,” said Tom Colucci of Parks Canada.
To help participants warm themselves, Special Olympics NWT was offering coffee, chili and buns beside the lake as participants toweled off. Registered massage therapists were also on hand to loosen up frozen muscles.
The Polar Plunge runs in over 40 countries to support the Special Olympics. Every province and territory in Canada with the exception of Nunavut hosts at least one plunge a year.
In addition to the Polar Plunge, Law Enforcement Torch Run, a global organization that supports the Special Olympics, holds an annual plane pull when the temperatures warm.