Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

FREEZING FOR A REASON – Yukon member of Parliament Larry Bagnell braces himself for the jump into the cold water.

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Photo by Dustin Cook

Lisa-Marie Vowk lands in the water during the first annual Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge Sat urday afternoon outside the Yukon Convention Centre.

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Photo by Dustin Cook

The two rescue officials throughout the event kick back in the water after all 28 plungers. More than $12,000 was raised for Special Olympics Yukon.

Plunging into the cold for Special Olympics: More than $12,000 raised in first annual event

Frigid and freezing temperatures didn’t stop 28 brave souls from jumping into the Polar Plunge.

By Dustin Cook on January 3, 2018

Frigid and freezing temperatures didn’t stop 28 brave souls from jumping into the Polar Plunge.

The first annual event hosted by the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) - Yukon chapter raised more than $12,000 in pledges for Special Olympics Yukon.

The mercury sat around -35 Saturday afternoon when the event took place at the Yukon Convention Centre parking lot, but that didn’t stop the party with participants willing and eager to jump into the frigid water and friends and family on hand to capture the moment.

The idea has been around for years – swimming in an extremely cold body of water during the winter – and at the same time raising awareness and money for Special Olympics.

These plunges have taken place across the country, but one hasn’t made it’s way up to the Yukon until now.

CEO for Special Olympics Yukon Serge Michaud said they always thought it was a good idea but it just wasn’t possible during the Yukon winter to jump in the river.

But then they received an idea from the Manitoba LETR chapter to get a large bin, find a parking lot, and you have yourselves a polar plunge by bringing the plunge to the people.

“There was a lot of work put into the logistics of it,” said Michaud noting they have been organizing the event for the past year. “First off because it was the first time, second off because we wanted to make sure everyone was safe and had a good time.

“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel that much as we were able to find ideas from other chapters.”

Even with the chilling temperatures, Michaud said the event was a huge success, so much so that the date has already been set for the 2018 Polar Plunge at the end of December.

“Going into the water and then popping out 30 seconds later wasn’t as bad as i thought it was going to be. But it was still cold, still very much a polar plunge,” Michaud said.

Participants had volunteers around them throughout the process to make sure they were safe during the event. Dive rescuers met them in the water after their plunge to help them out quickly and they were then ushered to a hot tub to warm back up.

Anyone who raised over $100 in pledges was eligible to partake in the event with jumpers taking part from many different organizations.

Yukon member of Parliament Larry Bagnell jumped in a Spiderman outfit, Sport Yukon fielded a team and the RCMP and Whitehorse Corrections also had several participants.

Whitehorse RCMP detachment commander Insp. Keith MacKinnon, a main organizer for the LETR, got the event started as the first jumper.

RCMP dispatcher Shannon Wyres won two awards at the end of the event for second most funds raised as well as best costume.

Special Olympics athlete Gaetan Michaud also participated in the event for the organization.

Every brave jumper received a Polar Plunge tuque after their jump, but special prizes were awarded for top fundraisers as well as top superhero costume.

Terry Grabowski raised the most money with over $2,000 and won a return airfare trip on behalf of Air North for being the top fundraiser.

Michaud said superheroes were the theme for the event because the law enforcement community has done so much for Special Olympics.

“Our athletes look at law enforcement as superheroes,” he said. “They’re the people that keep us safe and raise money and awareness for Special Olympics. We recognize what they do and they’re superheroes in our eyes.”

So there were many Batmans, Spidermans, Supermans (and Clark Kents) dressed up for the occasion.

Wyres, who won best costume, was dressed as an Incredibles character and said she can’t wait to do the plunge again next year.

“I was super nervous, being the temperature that it was. When I signed up it was -1 so it was a good idea at that time,” said Wyres who is a LETR volunteer. “As the week progressed and the cold weather was upon us I think everyone was pretty nervous wondering if the event was even going to go ahead but it is a polar plunge and we are in the Yukon and it turned out great.”

The plunge is only one of several events the LETR participates in to raise funds for Special Olympics throughout the year.

Other fundraising initiatives in the Yukon include the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay and the Torch Run Relay.

Funds raised through these events go to Special Olympics Yukon directly to help athletes go to competitions as well as buy sports equipment, but Michaud said it is not only funds raised but also awareness through these initiatives.

“It’s about the awareness they bring to our athletes and programs and what better way to do that than jumping into a bin of cold water?” Michaud said.

“The money raised helps us send teams off to games. Helps us buy basketballs, helps us buy soccer balls, helps us rent the Canada Games Centre. It takes a lot of money to run a sport organization and events like this help with those costs.”

With music blaring from the DJ and the emcee announcing every participant as they entered, spirits were high throughout the afternoon at the Polar Plunge, which Michaud said couldn’t be possible without the numerous volunteers and sponsors.

At the end of the event, these volunteers were out in the cold emptying the pool of cold water and taking a part the basin setup until the next one.

Already planned for Dec. 29 of this year, Michaud said he can’t wait to jump in again.

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