Calgary polar dip raises thousands to end sex slavery

About 90 people jumped into a frigid lake to raise money for charity on New Year's Day in Calgary.

'This is the one thing you have to do with no training whatsoever'

Calgary polar dip raises cold hard cash for charity

6 years ago
Duration 1:07
About 90 dipsters take the plunge

Rachel Peters says it was her first time jumping into a frozen lake on purpose.

"Everybody today is saying that it is not as bad as it looks but I don't believe them," Peters told CBC News on a cold New Year's Day in Calgary. Temperatures wavered around -13 C for most of the afternoon.

"I didn't even really think about it until I started driving up and they had the big chain saw," she explained of the preparations needed for the Calgary Ice Breaker Polar Dip.

Peters was one of about 90 people — called "dipsters" to those in the know — who jumped into a frigid lake to raise money for charity. And for bragging rights.

That money will go to the SA Foundation, a group that helps women and girls out of sexual exploitation and human trafficking situations in eight countries around the world.

Rachel Peters says her first time was better than she expected. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Organizer Bernie Potvin said the foundation does some great work.

"I think people are taken with the cause," Potvin said.

"They are so disturbed at what's going on in the world on our watch, that there are still millions of women and young girls in sexual slavery. They are saying 'That's enough, let's at least bring awareness to this.' We are going to raise some money today as well. We are in the $60,000s right now, we believe by the end of the day there will be $70,000 and probably 90 dipsters and each one of them says enough. Let's do something about it."

Organizer Bernie Potvin says the cause they raise money for, the SA Foundation, works to get women and girls out of sex slavery around the world. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Ross Weaver, another organizer, said the dip itself requires almost no preparation.

"This is the one thing you have to do with no training whatsoever," Weaver said.

"If you just come up to it and don't even think and jump it, there is no preparation whatsoever. Just go for it, you are in and out and then you have bragging rights for 365 days."

Ross Weaver says it's best not to overthink the icy plunge. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

He said there have never been any health scares at the event.

"We definitely have people sign a waiver but we did a fair amount of research on this before we started doing this eight years ago and we have never come across a scenario where someone has actually had a heart attack," Weaver said.

"All those things you think might happen, they don't seem to happen. In fact, apparently there are really good health benefits of doing this. There are countries in eastern Europe where people do it for health reasons to give them a good start to the new year."

Rachel Peters, right, and her husband take the plunge at Calgary's Ice Breaker Polar Dip 2017. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

First-timer Peters said the frigid dip was easier than she thought it would be.

"When I hit the water, I didn't know how much it would hurt but it is quick. You jump in, you get out and it is over with," she said.

Together with her husband, she raised $420 for the cause — and said she'll likely be back next year.

With files from Terri Trembath