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Ontarians take Polar Plunge to raise funds for Special Olympics athletes

Eighth annual Polar Plunge brings out the biggest number of participants yet
120 thrill seekers took a plunge into Lake Ontario while raising money for Special Olympics Ontario.

Jumping into Lake Ontario the first weekend of February isn’t for the faint of heart.

But 120 brave Polar Plunge participants did just that Sunday morning, raising money for Special Olympics Ontario along the way.

This is the eighth annual Polar Plunge put on by the Kingston Police Force, Ontario Law Enforcement Torch Run and the Ontario Provincial Police.

Kingston police const. Bryan McMillan is one of the event coordinators and says all the money raised will directly help Special Olympic athletes compete.

“It goes directly toward equipment, hotels, flights, any travel, food costs, volunteers, coaches, gear for the athletes, opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies for all the local, regional, national, even world games, now,” McMillan told Global News.

Athletes like curler Conor Pap, who competes with the Kingston Shot Rocks, giving him a chance to learn new skills and make new friends all while competing.

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“I am an awesome athlete, I’m one of the best of the best and I’ve been training a lot with the Shot Rocks,” said Pap.

READ MORE: Kingston’s version of The Dating Game helps raise funds for Special Olympics

Safety officials were on hand both in and out of the water to assist plungers with their jump.

They told Global News the water was only about 2 C.

But icy temperature doesn’t seem to bother some plungers.

Participants like Dr. Thomas Holmes has been participating in the Polar Plunge since 2014 and has raised more than $100,000 for Special Olympics Ontario with his teammates “The Professionals”.

“Every year I think it gets better and better because you realize that you can make an impact,” Holmes said.

As a dentist in Kingston, Holmes says this year his team and his pledges have come primarily from his office.

This year, Holmes says his team has raised $15,000 dollars, adding that jumping into the icy water is “no big deal”.

“I don’t find it a huge challenge,” said Holmes.

READ MORE: Lethbridge residents take polar plunge to raise funds for Special Olympic athletes

That wasn’t the consensus from every plunger, but all agreed they were doing it for a great cause.

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At 82, Gail Hayes was the event’s oldest jumper.

Hayes raised more than $100 and says next year she plans to come back with a team and raise even more.

“I find it exhilarating, it’s cold water, it’s refreshing and it’s such a good cause too,” she said.

As donations continue to roll in, Kingston police say they’re hopeful this year’s event will raise close to $60,000.