Lac du Bonnet’s Polar Bear Dare will take your breath away

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Think you’re brave? Try jumping into the frigid Winnipeg River in February in sub-zero temperatures.

That’s what Manitobans have been doing for the past three years as part of the Polar Bear Dare, a fundraiser for KidSport that takes place at the Lac du Bonnet town dock. It was started by Lac du Bonnet’s Trena Taylor, who moved here a few years ago. She wanted to do something to get involved in the community.

“I watched my daughter and nephew jump into the water on the May long weekend, when the water is still pretty cold. I’ve seen polar bear dips on the news, and I thought it would be nice to do one for charity,” she says.

It’s been three straight years of success for the event, and it’s raised around $60,000 for KidSport, a charity that provides support to children in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from playing organized sports.

“I was nervous the first year. I was worried it wouldn’t fly, but we got our posters out there and made everyone well aware of the event. I wasn’t expecting it to be this successful,” Taylor adds.

Around 50 people take part every year, and $20,000 was raised at the 2014 Polar Bear Dare in February. They’re now looking for volunteers for the 2015 event.

The concept is simple. Participants dare one another to jump into the frigid river, made possible by local firefighters, who cut a hole in the ice to expose the ice water underneath. After raising money leading up to the jump day, participants take the plunge in front of an audience of supporters, and then soak in a hot tub immediately afterward.

“Hitting the water takes your breath away for a second, but then you climb out and get into that warm hot tub, a volunteer brings you hot chocolate, and everything is great,” says Lac du Bonnet’s Dave Ogren, who has taken part in the dare every year since it began. “This year, though, was different. This year was for the hardcore only. Waiting outside in -25C with that wind blowing was crazy.”

But Ogren adds raising money for KidSport makes it all worth it. According to Shannon Schade, regional manager for Sport Manitoba which oversees KidSport, $55,000 was given out to 293 kids in the Eastern Manitoba region in 2013 — a $10,000 increase over the year before. The 2015 Polar Bear Dare takes place Feb. 21. For info on the event, visit facebook.com/polarbeardare.

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