‘Get freezing for a reason’: Edmontonians take polar plunge for Special Olympics Alberta

Edmontonians took part in a polar plunge on Sunday. As Laura Krause reports, it was all in support of Special Olympics Alberta.

Edmonton Elks player Aaron Grymes knows what he’s getting himself into when he steps onto the football field – and the toll it takes on his body week in and week out.

But jumping into a freezing lake in the middle of Edmonton’s winter? That’s dedication to a cause, especially on a minus-25 Celsius day with the wind chill.

The CFL defensive back was among the many participants – including several law-enforcement officers and first responders – to take part in the 2023 Polar Plunge on Sunday.

“I don’t know how to prepare for this,” said Grymes. “I know how to prepare for football games and tackling, but how do you prepare to jump into a freezing lake? I don’t know, but we will find out I guess.”

Participants took the plunge in support of Special Olympics Alberta.

“When I found out it was for the Special Olympics and in support of Special Olympics Alberta, I was like, ‘absolutely,’” said Grymes. “I hate being cold, can’t stand it, but for the cause, get freezing for a reason, absolutely. I will jump in and jump right out.”

Participants in freezing water as part of the polar plunge in Edmonton on Jan. 29, 2023. (Credit: CityNews/Laura Krause)

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee was among those participating in the event Saturday – the first in-person plunge since 2019. The event was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The good part of this is the water is warmer than the weather so I’m not sure if that’s a positive or a negative, but at the end of the day it’s about the cause,” said McFee.

“When you look at the Special Olympics and the polar plunge and the money that is raised out of Edmonton, it’s something to be proud of, and I’m proud of everyone who came out. And obviously it’s uncomfortable, but at the end of the day it’s worth it.”

Raising $100K for Special Olympics Alberta

Sue Gilchrist, the CEO of Special Olympics Alberta, says the organization raised more than $100,000 as of Sunday morning.

“Which is phenomenal and it goes such a long way to supporting all the needs of our athletes all across the province,” said Gilchrist.

“It’s so amazing to see everybody here. It’s a community event and it only works if the community is behind it, and the community is behind the Special Olympics and we see that loud and clear today. It’s fantastic.”

Jenny Murray, an athlete with Special Olympics Alberta, says it made her feel “good and accepted” to see the turnout for the event.

“It actually means a lot,” said Murray, who plays soccer and has a big competition in Berlin in June. “It means athletes like myself can do the sports that we love.”

Gilchrist acknowledged jumping in frigid waters was painful, but said it was worth it to support the athletes.

“Our athletes put everything on the line, they give so much when they compete, they give so much when they practise. This is such a small, small price to pay for all the effort and energy they put into being the best athletes they can be.”

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