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VIDEO: Dippers take chilly plunge into Kempenfelt Bay

'After the initial feeling, it's great': More than 100 people participated in annual event that also benefits food bank


More than 100 people participated in the 14th annual charity polar bear plunge at Centennial Beach Sunday. The event typically involves a plunge into the frozen lake, which was not the case this year.

However, the water was still chilly and lots of food was collected to donate to the Barrie Food Bank.

Organizer Josef Polcz said he has been swimming in the bay every morning over the last 400 days, and has enjoyed ice cold swimming for many years.

“The water is still cold today, maybe 2C, but for sure there isn’t the ice and wind to compete with so that's good,” said Polcz. “But I’ve been doing the Jan. 1 swim since 2009 just as a way to welcome in the new year.”

Polcz said as the years progressed and he got more people to join him, he started collecting donations for the local food bank. 

“Last year we gathered about 200 pounds of items. I’m hoping to double that this year,” said Polcz.

Over the years, the 66-year-old has seen the benefits of doing his morning swims but even more so in the last little while. 

“Last year I had cancer surgery and I have been using the swim to help with the healing, inflammation and such,” said Polcz. “However, mentally, these swims are amazing and have been known to produce dopamine and all the feel-good hormones.” 

It was unknown how much food was donated to the food bank but four storage baskets were full by 12:30 p.m.

Heather Kennedy was joined by her husband, daughter and her mom in Sunday's plunge. 

“I have done this a few times, but this is the first time running from the beach and not from the ice,” said Kennedy. “But with all the people that come out to this, the energy is so great and so supportive. It is not as cold as years gone by, but it's still not a walk in the park. At first it's kind of like being stabbed by a thousand cold knives. But after that initial feeling, it's great.”