Adventurous folks take plunge into freezing water for good cause



Posted on January 2, 2011 at 9:47 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 9:41 PM

LUCKY PEAK RESERVOIR, Idaho -- More than 200 people took to the icy shores of Lucky Peak Reservoir on Saturday for a very short swim.

The Great Polar Bear Challenge may sound crazy, but it was all for a good cause: the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Idaho.

With the windchill, it was about 15 degrees below zero at Spring Shores Marina.

"When they told me about this event when they started, I thought they were nuts," said Torene Bonner, CEO of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Idaho. "But it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and people like to start their new year off with jumping in the cold water."

The Polar Bear Challenge has brought people to the frigid water of Lucky Peak for the past nine years.

"This is my 6th year, this is his 5th year," said Chris Buss, referencing his friend, Ben Drake. "We both raised more than $2,000 for Make-a-Wish this year. So, it's a good year to get very cold. It's got to be dedication, because it's stupidity otherwise."

When asked if the water could numb you, and actually reduce the pain, Josh Malmgren and Joshy Petersen responded, "No, it hurts. It never gets to that point."

The brave souls got pledges for the Make-a-Wish Foundation totaling at least $50. But to earn them, they had to take the plunge.

Madeleine Faucher said her first thought when she hit the water was, "Get out as fast as possible. I got under and out."

When asked what her first thought was when she hit the water, Shelley Butler simply said, "Brrrrr." Kally Clark added, "The water's gotta be warmer than it is out here."

Cody Earl, who sported a viking helmet when he waded in, said, "Every thing's gone numb from the waist down, but the pain that I'm going through today is probably very small compared to what those kids are going through. So it's well worth it."

"These folks do something that's a challenge, and they can go warm up," said Bonner. "And our kids at Make-a-Wish, they're facing some real challenges themselves. And so somehow, there's kind of a meaning there."

Organizers said the Great Polar Bear Challenge raises about $30,000 each year on average. That's enough to grant six wishes for kids facing life-threatening illnesses.