September 26, 2020

BY HEATHER KENNERY

As the breath of onlookers fogged up the morning air, people happily jumped into a pool of icy water at the annual K-W Polar Plunge in Waterloo Town Square on Jan. 26.

This year the proceeds raised from the plunge went to KidsAbility, a local organization that provides rehabilitation service for children with special needs. Greg Lehman, event founder, knew that it was the right place to donate to.

“We chose KidsAbility because of their local roots and the amazing work that they do. We also knew that our money would have a great impact on what they were able to do,” Lehman said.

KidsAbility first started as the KW Rotary Children’s Centre in 1957. The centre provided therapy and medical support for children and youth who have developmental delays, communication delays and disabilities and physical disabilities. After many years of serving the community and multiple upgrades to the facility, in 2003 the name of the centre was changed to KidsAbility Centre for Child Development. Last year they had over 5,000 kids go through their programs, clearly showing that financial support from the community is needed.PHOTO BY HEATHER KENNERY    A Polar Plunge participant goes for an icy dip at the K-W Polar Plunge in Waterloo Town Square on Jan. 26.

Last year the plunge had 25 participants and raised just over $1,000, but this year they surpassed their expectation.

“This year we exceeded our $5,000 goal and raised over $7,500 with the help of over 50 plungers,” Lehman said.

Some people who took the challenge did it for the thrill while others did it for something they held close to their heart. Kate Geo, who raised $825, the second highest amount, was there for very personal reasons.

Geo cried as she shared her heartbreak with the crowd. Her daughter was born premature and died just three weeks ago. Geo took the plunge in her baby’s memory and to support an organization that helps families with children who have special needs.

One cold jumper, Gilles Losier, took a plunge for his third time. Normally he participates in the Oakville Polar Bear Dip on New Year’s Day, but this year he decided to change location and donate to KidsAbility. He managed to raise $190 in three days by telling his friends he would wear a ridiculous outfit if they pledged him. Despite feeling like a “Popsicle,” Losier was still smiling after his dip and was showing off his outfit.

“I told them I would wear a bikini and a horse mask if they donated,” he said. “I liked that the money goes to a local charity, it has a direct effect.”