Waterloo residents take the plunge

Minus-four and snowing; not exactly ideal conditions for a swim.

But on Saturday morning, about 20 participants braved the cold and hopped into a pool at the Waterloo Public Square as part of the first K-W Polar Plunge.
The event raised approximately $1,000 for Waterloo’s Kidsability Centre for Child Development.

Saturday’s Polar Plunge was organized by Greg Lehman, a local employee of mobile marketing company Spike Mobiles and Ashley Csanady, a reporter at the Waterloo Region Record, and was conceived, of all places, on Twitter.

After seeing Csanady speak at a social media breakfast event, Lehman found her on Twitter and the two got in a race to 500 followers.

The Plunge was initially meant to be a punishment for the loser of the race, but when both reached 500 followers in the same week, both Lehman and Csanady were ready to jump in the frigid water.

“We looked around for an event locally and didn’t really see anything, so we said, ‘let’s make our own,’” said Lehman, who hopes the Polar Plunge will become an annual event.

“We’re just hoping to raise some money for Kidsability and we’re just doing our best to raise some awareness about them and the great things that they do.”
For Lehman, the temperature of the water in the inflatable pool, supplied by Waterloo Fire Rescue, set up for the plunge wasn’t the biggest concern.

“We learned today that firefighters don’t use clean water to put fires out. Which makes sense. But yeah, the water’s thick as mud,” he said.

But the participants braved the cold, murky water, with some, such as John Casciato who jumped in the water in a pirate costume, taking the opportunity to get theatrical.

“What’s better than jumping into some cold water in the middle of winter, dressed as a pirate?” said Casciato. “It’s a great event, lots of fun and a great opportunity to support a great cause.”

And while all the participants were shivering after their plunge, none had any regrets.

“Ice cold. Just ice, ice cold,” said Sarina Bruni a third-year Wilfrid Laurier University, who hopped in the pool with a group of her co-workers. “But I would do it again in a heartbeat. For a good cause like this, any day.”

While the atmosphere of the day was light-hearted, for Kidsability, which provides services to children with developmental disabilities, the money raised is crucial.

“Kidsability is funded 90 per cent through the government, but the other 10 per cent is raised here locally and that’s well over a million dollars that we need to raise in order to provide services,” said Dayna Girogio, donor relations and communications officer for Kidsability.

“Without donations like this, more children would be waiting for services.”
Those donations go to help children like Graydon Large, ten, who was on hand Saturday as a Kidsability ambassador. Graydon has been going to Kidsability since he was 18 months old.

“Graydon’s almost 11 now and when he started out, he wasn’t able to walk and he’s been in a wheelchair, a walker and now he’s walking a lot on his own,” said Graydon’s mother Deirdre. “[Kidsability] has really helped us out.”

Donations are still being accepted at kwpolar.com/donate.

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