The temperature may have been in the single digits, but that didn’t stop 70 people from jumping into Harrison lake to mark the start of 2019.
“It’s amazing how everyone just pulled together to get this event off the ground,” Nicky Joosting said, holding a towel around her wet torso.
Joosting, a volunteer with the Harrison Fire Department, was one of the people who started the inaugural Harrison polar bear swim. Her goal?
“Just to have a swim,” she said. “Everyone thought it was a great idea, so we decided to go ahead and do it.”
The polar bear swim concept came up during a Christmas party, she said, and together with real estate agent Diane Jacobi worked to put the event together in about two and a half weeks. Jacobi was responsible for bringing Harrison Hot Springs Resort, Tourism Harrison and HUB International on as sponsors; Joosting worked with her fellow fire department members to host the event.
On the chilly morning at the beach, music played over a loud speaker while free hot chocolate was handed out. The 70 participants signed waivers while volunteers collected donations for the Agassiz Harrison Community Services. Over the day, participants donated $1,257.65 in cash and 53 kilograms of non-perishable food items.
“We had an excellent turnout, more people than we thought actually,” Jacobi said about the event. “It was well advertised in the short period of time.”
People from around the Lower Mainland managed to come out to the inaugural swim on New Year’s Day.
Jennifer Pucek and Sylvia Seebach, both 40, came out from Abbotsford dressed in tutus and shiny gold headbands.
“This is part of our ‘This is 40’ bucket list,” Pucek said. “We saw that this was happening and it was relatively close to home and for a good cause, so we decided let’s do it.”
At noon, the 70 swimmers lined up to start the plunge. Pucek and Seebach were laughing as they ran down the beach into the water. A few minutes later, they came out again, tutus wet and headbands in hand.
For Joosting and Jacobi, who were among the 70 people who came out of the water dripping and smiling, the first Harrison polar bear swim was a success.
As for next year?
“It’s going to be an annual thing,” Joosting said, looking around at the crowd at the beach. “It’s just a great way to start the year isn’t it?”