It was a ‘balmy’ 6C last Wednesday afternoon in Turkey Point.
Perfect for a polar plunge to raise funds for Special Olympics Ontario.
“I couldn’t imagine four days ago this was going to happen,” said co-organizer Const. Jeremy Renton, OPP Norfolk Detachment. “It was kind of a spur of the moment, last minute decision to get some money raised for Polar Plunge for Special Olympics … and it went great. I can’t ask for anything more than this.”
Twenty-seven individuals, including Special Olympics athlete Taylor Bennett, were brave enough to plunge into Lake Erie at Turkey Point’s main beach on March 3.
OPP had asked the gathered spectators, estimated to be about 100 people cheering them on, to wear masks and follow ‘yellow’ zone COVID-19 protocol.
The Polar Plunge for Special Olympics (polarplunge.ca), is held in February at various sites across the province, organized through the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
“Law Enforcement Torch Run is the No. 1 supporter of Special Olympics Ontario,” said Renton, who has organized the Norfolk Torch Run for the last five years, and has coached Special Olympics hockey for 12 years. “They annually raise about $3 million in Ontario, and that provides money for Special Olympians to go to competitions and for their regular sports to run in each community.”
More than $12,000 was raised for Special Olympics of Ontario, and mainly for Simcoe Special Olympics.
It was only a few days earlier that Renton had said on social media “the water’s not ‘that’ cold,” while issuing a challenge to Norfolk EMS and Norfolk Fire to plunge with them.
The challenge was accepted. Const. Ed Sanchuk said they had representatives from Six Nations Police, Norfolk County Fire and Paramedics, Victim Services, and a few special constables joining Team Norfolk OPP.
On the day of the plunge, Renton admitted the water was cold.
“I’m not sure of the exact temperature, I would guess probably around 35-40 degrees (F). It’s cold. This was all ice five days ago.”
Plunging was a bit of a shock to the system, he said, but a nice shock.
“It feels good,” he smiled. “I’ll do it 10 more times if we keep raising money. I’m okay with that.”
“It’s all about your mindset,” said Roman Bodnar, who accepted the challenge with some Norfolk Fire Station 11 friends. “It feels cold, but it’s really not as cold as people think. I think your body can only feel a certain amount of cold, so if you can get past it mentally, you can definitely get past it physically.”
“Yeah, it’s basically all the mindset, for sure,” nodded firefighter Tyler Jacobs.
“Us three,” Jacobs said, nodding to Bodnar and firefighter recruit Nick Branderhorst, “have been doing the polar dips all year to challenge ourselves. So we saw this as a reason to plunge for a purpose. We were able to give back doing this … it’s awesome.”
“It’s a good excuse to go in the water,” laughed Bodnar. “It was a great event, organized well, and we were happy to be part of it.”