On Sunday, January 1, 2012 the Polar Bear Plunge took place through-out Canada. Hundreds of participants ran into the icy water on a 5-degree afternoon to participate in the 27th annual Courage Polar Bear dip.
The New Year’s tradition began in 1920 in Vancouver when a small group plunged into the icy cold water of English Bay. Now, 1,000 2,000 people participate in the Polar Bear Plunge every year.
This annual New Year’s tradition helps raise money for different charities and has raised more than $16 million for Special Olympics since 1997.
Britannia Bay raises money for juvenile cancer, Sunnyside Beach in Toronto raised money for Habitat for Humanity, Oakville raised more than $130,000 for World Vision, which will provide fresh water for communities in Tanzania. Proceeds from the Waukegan’s Polar Bear Plunge benefit Special Recreation Services of Northern Lake County.
When asked why they do the Polar Bear Plunge, 14-year-old Natasha Morita and 53-year-old mother Tatiana Morita said, “It just seemed like it was a fun, daring, invigorating thing to do,” Tatiana said, and adding “despite the pain we would do it again.”
They began dipping last year, and decided to make the Polar Bear Plunge an annual mother-daughter tradition. This year, the mother-daughter team dressed up in costumes made from bubble wrap and hockey tape. “We decided to be the double bubble trouble,” Tatiana said.
Joey Riegling, 40-years-old, who dressed up as a Mexican wrestler, said, “Donating to charity is only one reason why people keep coming year after year. I go for charity and just for the pain and torture of the whole thing. It is excruciating. It feels like you got lit on fire, almost, ‘cause it’s so cold. It’s bad. I’m going back for more.”
Melanie Ricchetti of Round Lake Beach said about the Polar Bear Plunge in Waukegan, “I have always wanted to do it. It’s fun. Everybody comes out and I enjoy doing it for a good cause. The water was colder than last year.”
The temperature of the water in Waukegan was at a mere 41-degrees with an air temperature at only 35-degrees and wind gusts at 29mph. Waukegan Fire Chief Dan Young said they had trained divers in the lake and a rescue squad on location in case there were any problems.