Dozens brave cold for third annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

Paul Hanson, right, celebrated his birthday by participating in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC at Willows Beach Sunday. Organizers have raised $40,000 in online donations alone. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Oak Bay Police Const. Sheri Lucas poses with her Batman costume before heading into the waters of Willows Beach Sunday. She’s one of more than 150 participants in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Oak Bay resident Mat Hylan and his dog, Hamish, took part in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC at Willows Beach Sunday. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
More than 150 participants took part in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC at Willows Beach Sunday. Organizers have raised $40,000 in online donations alone. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
The Oddballs, a cold-water swim team, took part in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC at Willows Beach Sunday. Organizers have raised $40,000 in online donations alone. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
More than 150 participants took part in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC at Willows Beach Sunday. Organizers have raised $40,000 in online donations alone. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
More than 150 participants took part in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC at Willows Beach Sunday. Organizers have raised $40,000 in online donations alone. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
More than 150 participants took part in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics BC at Willows Beach Sunday. Organizers have raised $40,000 in online donations alone. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

More than 150 participants plunged into six-degree celsius ocean water at Willows Beach, dressed in uniform and costume to raise funds for Special Olympics BC’s (SOBC) life-changing year-round sport, youth, and health programs for people with intellectual disabilities.

Law enforcement officers, Special Olympics athletes and members of Oak Bay community gathered on the shores of Willow Beach to participate in the third annual Vancouver Island Polar Plunge for the SOBC (SOBC) on Feb. 6.

As of Feb. 16, funds raised for the SOBC have reached $40,000, according to Constable Sheri Lucas, Media Coordinator for Vancouver Island Polar Plunge.

Of those who attended the Polar Plunge, members from B.C. Sheriff Services, Canada Border Services Agency, Central Saanich Police Service, Oak Bay Police Department, RCMP, Saanich Police Department, Victoria Police Department, and The 5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment were also present. The Polar Plunge is in partnership with the Law Enforcement torch run for SOBC.

Michael Langridge, an athlete with the Special Olympics BC, attended the event despite the fact that he has a cracked rib from skiing. Langridge is headed to compete in Nanaimo this May as a member of the Special Olympics Soccer team.

“I want to make a difference in the Special Olympics BC and all the stuff they do for us,” said Langridge.

Among the participants was the Oddballs Cold Water Swim Team, a group who has swam the Willow Beach every morning for the last 90 day. The swim team finds the early morning swims a great way to start their day. As participants quickly ran out of the water to warm towels, the swim team leisurely waded in the cold water like it was a hot summer day.

“It is just something we do everyday, but then we heard if this event and thought it was a great way to lend our support to a really good cause,” said Russ Campbell.

Paul Hanson attended the Polar Plunge for the first time convincing his friend, Curtis Menz, to join him in celebration of his birthday.

“My feet were the most cold part of my body,” said Hanson.

Locals and police look forward every year to raise funds for SOBC athletes, and hope to see the event continue to grow.

“Every year it grows and it just makes me smile,” said Lucas, “I don’t think people realize the impact it has on the athletes and the advantages we are giving them by allowing them to train and compete in sport, and to make them feel like they are one of the community members.”

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