At 8 a.m. Joe “The Ice Man” Klassen (Facilities Manager) and his team used chainsaws to cut through 12” of ice to create a 15’ x 30’ hole in Ness Lake. A crew of seven volunteers spent two hours shovelling the snow and removing the blocks of ice to get ready for the 21st annual Polar Bear Dip at Ness Lake Bible Camp. The weather went from -25c overnight to a balmy -11 by the morning of the event.
Many Polar Bear Dips across the province had to be cancelled as there was not a safe way to gather and host the crowds that often gather. The team at Ness Lake Bible Camp shifted their usually well attended event to be a drop in to manage crowd size and follow current health restrictions.
“We knew the dip was going to look different and up until yesterday’s health order announcement we were not sure it was going to be able to happen,” said Dave Horton the Interim Director at the camp. “Getting rid of the ceremonies, large crowds and a places to sit and warm up after is a bummer but we wanted to offer even just a basic experience. Doing the dip is a tradition for so many in Prince George and the money raised impacts so many families in our community.”
Over the 20 plus years the team at Ness Lake Bible Camp and the community have become Polar Bear Dip experts having done the dip in all weather from -30C to +5C. The event has raised $137,400 since 2001. Last years open to the public Polar Bear Dip had to be postponed and eventually cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions. A small private dip was put on for three fundraisers who brought in a record $30,000.
Mark and Carol Stofer took the plunge today as well after raising $12,100. They have been pace setters for the event as last year they raised over $20, 000.
“It has been another year of ups and down for those in our community and we know especially for our campers. The money raised today is going to go towards sending kids to camp that otherwise could not afford to come,” said Michael Gauthier who was the event organizer. “This summer we are hoping to be able to run our programs for all kids. Overnight, day camp, WilderNess and the Leader in Training registrations are open on our website. We are not sure what will change before the summer but we are encouraging families to register now and if they have to cancel because of COVID-19 restrictions we are offering full refunds.” The camp is thrilled to have these funds available as they know that so many families have been affected financially by the pandemic.”
A grand total of 27 dippers made their way through the ice, snow and howling winds. Total donations were $21,715 with the top fundraisers being the Stofers with $12,165.00, AJ McBlain (local youth pastor) $3700.00 and Lucas Gairns $2500.00! AJ McBlain has taken the plunge before in Mackenzie but just moved to Prince George and this was his first time doing it in Ness Lake.
“I was excited to take the plunge into Prince George and Ness Lake….I didn’t realize it would be a literal plunge. I know how much Ness Lake Bible Camp has impacted the youth in Mackenzie and Prince George, I am excited to see this money help more kids attend.”
Hendrik and Alicia Grobler just moved to Canada three weeks ago and after hearing about the crazy Canadians swimming on New Years Day they knew they wanted to take part. Alicia took the dip and was a bit shocked by the water and piercing cold after from the strong winds. Hendrik said “When we first came we didn’t think that winter could be that bad but after minus 30 our minds were changed. I don’t know the temp today but the wind was enough!”
Money raised from this event will go towards the camper sponsorship fund which makes camp possible for families who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Every kid deserves to go to camp and we have always strived to make camp accessible for all. One way we do that is by paying a portion of the fees for families that are not financially able to send their kids. Last year we raised a record breaking $30,000.