Calgarians plunged into icy cold waters on Saturday to support local charities.
Two separate polar plunges, where willing participants jump into freezing lakes, took place in opposite ends of the city to raise money for Special Olympics Alberta and the SA Foundation, which helps women and children escape human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
In Calgary’s northwest community of Arbour Lake, over 100 plungers, including Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld, MLA Leela Aheer and Special Olympics athletes Leonka Kaluha and Morgan Butt, dipped into the local lake raising thousands for the cause.
Participant Shane DeRoo said it was a worthwhile experience.
“I have a disability myself and thought it would be a good way to give back to the community,” said DeRoo, who was born without arms.
Surprisingly, he expected it to be colder. He’s been training for the event by taking cold showers daily for the last year and submerging himself in the icy British Colombia waters every Spring.
Across the city in the southeast community of Mahogany, over 100 dipsters made a splash against human trafficking at the Mahogany Beach Club.
“For the SA Foundation, this is huge,” said Melonie Michaud, SA Foundation volunteer.
“The SA Foundation doesn’t accept any government funding. We are an organization that started right here in Calgary with our very first safe house for women escaping prostitution and we are now in seven countries around the world and all of that is funded by donors and people who are advocates for us.”
She said the issue of human trafficking and sexual exploitation is a growing one globally and every dollar raised for the non-profit organization helps support women and children escape this vicious reality.
The SA Foundation call its supporters champions of freedom.
“We really appreciate our champions of freedom. For them, they are experiencing five to 10 seconds of extreme cold and utter terror. They are jumping into frigid waters, (but) most of our champions of freedom who are dipping say ‘it’s nothing,’” said Michaud.
“Five seconds of pain is nothing compared to the brutality that women are facing. The more money we can raise, the more women we can help escape that.”
– With files from Jim Wells