A jumper takes a brave leap towards the icy water of Sylvan Lake during the annual Polar Bear Dip on Feb. 16. The event serves as a fundrasier for local organizations during the Winterfest festivites. Photo by Kaylyn Whibbs/Sylvan Lake News

Sylvan Lakers take a frozen dip for a cause

The annual Polar Bear Dip held during Winterfest is a fundraiser for organizations around town

Jumpers in this year’s Polar Bear Dip were treated to much nicer temperatures than in 2019.

The annual event had brave souls take the leap into a section of an ice cold Sylvan Lake that has been cut free from the frozen surface during Winterfest festivities on Feb. 15.

The jump serves as a successful fundraiser for a host of local organizations and raised $11,216.75.

A total of 11 organizations benefited from this year’s event.

This year’s top fundraisers, Destiny Grinder and Michaella Manweiler, jumped for the Central Alberta Ronald McDonald House. They raised $1,565 for the cause.

Second and third place runner ups for top fundraiser tied at $1,000.

Town of Sylvan Lake’s Chief Administrative Officer Wally Ferris took the plunge dressed as a cup of ramen noodles for the Sylvan Lake Food Bank.

Abriel Tucker cannonballed into the freezing water for the Sylvan Lake Fire Department.

Third-year dipper Val Smith says she loves the rush of taking the plunge.

“At that point you walk up there [and] there’s no turning back,” said Smith after the jump. “I’m here and I’ve got my kids watching me and my husband and it’s like ‘I’m just going to go for it.’”

Smith raised $280 for the Play Group Society.

“The people are great, the firefighters are great,” added Smith. “I’ll be back next year.”

The Sylvan Lake Fire Department plays a large role in the event to assure all those making the jump into the lake on a chilly February afternoon stay safe.

This year’s event saw about 20 participants ranging from veteran Polar Bear Dippers to rookies making the first leap.

Starla Fifield took the plunge into the icy water for a second time this past weekend.

“It’s just cold,” explained Fifield. “It doesn’t feel like a whole lot, I mean, you wanna get out … but it’s fun.”

The event is not only fun for the jumpers, but also for the spectators who lined the area surrounding the hole on Saturday afternoon ready to cheer on and laugh at those who willingly jump into the frozen lake.

“I think it’s kind of refreshing, especially on a day like this,” said Fifield of the sunny, mild winter afternoon.

She says she participates because she enjoys raising money for the Sylvan Lake Municipal Library as it is a cause that matters to her.

She raised $545 for her jump, and together with her jumping partner they raised over $800 for the library.

Other organizations who received donations from the charitable jumpers included Central Alberta Youth Unlimited, Victim Services and Serenity Pet Shelter.

Last year’s Polar Bear Dip benefited 12 charities and raised $22,536. A total of 25 participants took the plunge after a delay due to freezing temperatures.

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