MONTREAL – It certainly felt like arctic weather at the Polar Bear Plunge in Verdun Saturday afternoon, but that didn’t stop some very brave souls from diving into icy waters and it was all for a good cause.
For nine years now, participants have been braving the city’s harsh February weather to raise money for Special Olympics Quebec.
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Normally, bathers would jump into the cold waters of the St-Lawrence River but a mild December and absence of ice forced organizers to modify the event.
Instead swimmers were asked to jump into an outdoor pool wearing costumes, with a prize for best one.
This year, 220 participants were registered for the event, including some city -hardened police officers used to walking a beat in the cold weather, as well as Special Olympic volunteers and supporters.
But some participants got cold feet so-to-speak, and were no-shows.
According to Hélène Sabatini, communication’s director for the Special Olympic’s Quebec branch, more than 150 people took took part in the challenge, despite Environment Canada’s extreme cold weather warning.
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Anthony Dire, one of the courageous jumpers said it wasn’t really all that bad.
“The wind was colder than the water,” he said. “So actually jumping in was refreshing, it was warm.”
Dire is a veteran of the event.
“It’s my fifth time doing it,” he said. “It’s such a great cause I’m happy to do it.”
Micol Haimson, said it was colder than she could ever imagine but was more worried about the spectators.
“It’s worse for them,” she said. “They’re standing out for so long. We just jump in and jump out.”
Sabatini said more than $30,000 was raised at today’s event providing a heartwarming result for an otherwise freezing event.