Participants made a splash at the Kelowna Polar Bear Dip at Tugboat Bay. Donation to take part went to funds CRIS Adaptive Adventures. (Photo - Daniel Taylor)

Over 350 people make the plunge at this year’s Polar Bear Dip in Kelowna

The event hosted by CRIS Adaptive Adventures aims to raise money for those with disabilities

Okanagan residents started their 2020s with a refreshing and freezing dip into Okanagan Lake.

The sixth Annual Freezin For A Reason Polar Bear Dip has become a tradition where thrill-seekers and warm-skinned jumpers dive into the lake for a good cause.

CRIS Adaptive Adventures hosted the event with the goal of raising $25,000, which will help open up upwards of 100 new spots within their programing in 2020. Those programs include outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, winter programs and more for those with disabilities. A donation is required as part of registration for the event.

Shelley Buchanan Gilmore, CEO and general manager of CRIS said the money raised from the dip is critical for helping people in Kelowna living with a disability.

“We are small charity that’s been around for 20 years and the demand (to help people with disabilities) is still very strong,” Gilmore said.

“We service people from small children to seniors. The demand is there as it is estimated that 25 per cent of our population has some disability and we believe the outdoors is a prescription for physical and mental health. We would love to get more people (involved with our programming).”

This year, the dip saw over 2000 people in attendance with 350 of them making the plunge into the lake. A much bigger turnout than in 2018, which can mostly be attributed to the unseasonably mild weather. Although, as one can imagine, the water was still mighty cold.

“It was shocking. It takes your breath away,” Kelownian Avery Lawrence said.

“It was great to do it for a good cause. I will definitely do it again.”

READ MORE: Okanagan Lake relatively warm for this year’s polar bear dip

READ MORE: Here’s what to do in Kelowna on New Year’s Day

While it can be assumed the water was quite chilly for all 1,600 dippers, one individual’s experience was like nothing he’s ever endured before.

Lachlan Linger is from Sydney, Australia, and was visiting family in Canada for the first time when he decided to give the freezing waters of Okanagan Lake a shot. He said going from the warm oceans of Australia to the icy waters of Lake Okanagan was something he’ll never forget.

“First thing my feet were killing me walking in on the rocks and then all of a sudden it’s freezing cold,” Linger said.

“I’m still trying to feel my toes, but it was awesome and exhilarating. You come out of the water and you just feel refreshed and it’s all for a good cause.”

People also took the plunge in Peachland as part of a Polar Bear Dip.

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