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A tradition begins: OLG Point Edward employees raise $1,445 during their 2nd Annual Polar Dip

By: Deb Fraser-Brown of WWF’s Living Planet @ Work member, OLG

How cold could it be, really? We live in Southwestern Ontario where summers are sweltering and the winters are relatively tame.  Our OLG Point Edward Casino Bet on Green Team wanted to raise awareness of environmental issues and climate change, so we thought a Polar Bear Dip (plunging into icy waters) would be the best way to do it. I mean, who doesn’t love polar bears? And truly, who doesn’t love jumping in the lake in the middle of February?!

Last winter we canvassed our workplace departments and found ten brave employees willing to take the plunge.  They quickly found generous family, friends and co-workers to sponsor them. For our inaugural 2012 Dip, we raised $1140 to symbolically adopt a polar bear family through WWF!

This year, we decided to direct a portion of our donations to WWF’s Arctic Home Campaign so they could be matched dollar for dollar by Coca-Cola, a company that is a big supporter of WWF Canada. The Campaign’s proceeds fund a critical project called the Last Ice Area, which aims to protect this vital ecosystem that is so important to communities and species like the polar bear.

Lucky for us, we found many eager and passionate volunteers who felt the cause was worth the cold!  They set out canvassing family and friends and some even doubled their pledges from last year.  One swimmer raised $400 in a tremendous solo effort.  Our goal for this year was to raise $1300 for 2013 and to keep the theme going, we chose February 13th.

OLG polar bear dip everybodys ready

©OLG, Everyone gets ready to take the polar bear dip!

On Dip Day we found a small opening in the ice along the shore of Lake Huron where the lake spills into the St Clair River. We remembered a pool thermometer to gauge the water temperature (although next year we will wait until after the swim to tell them the water was a balmy 32 degrees… Fahrenheit)!  We called the local newspaper and radio station for press coverage and for a second year in a row, our local Tim Horton’s donated piping hot coffee.  Swimmers remembered their water shoes, over-sized towels (read blankets) and warm Canadian toques.

At 11:03 am, the countdown began. There were cheers of encouragement from the bundled spectators on shore (“Get in there!  GET IN THERE!”), while others pleaded for them to retreat.  Once our EMR personnel ensured all six swimmers had safely returned to shore with their toques, towels and Timmies, we declared Dip Day 2013 a success!

olg polar bear dip first 10

©OLG, Posing before the plunge!

By day’s end a total of $1,445 was raised for WWF. We decided to donate $1000 to the Arctic Home campaign and the rest towards species adoption. Several colleagues have already volunteered for next year’s swim, as have others who were unable to participate this year due to scheduling conflicts.

olg polar bear dip Rob Lucier

©OLG, Rob Lucier, stays toasty warm

As the coordinator, many people expected me to actually participate, but as I find Lake Huron frigid in August, I have vehemently refused.  But something changed in me that frosty morning as I watched my friends and coworkers drag themselves back to shore.  How can I repeatedly ask them to do something so extreme, if I wasn’t willing to lead by example? How can I stand on the shore in my big fuzzy coat and warm winter boots yelling “Get in there” when I’m not getting in there too?  This is a moment to do something brave, meaningful and daring for our planet. So next year when we host our third annual Polar Bear Dip, I will be standing at the waters edge with my courageous colleagues. I will be there scared, shivering, waiting for my adrenaline rush with my two boys screaming “Get in there!”

I mean how cold could it be, really?

olg polar bear dip coffee

©OLG, Cozying up with hot coffee and warm blankets after a cold swim

Want to double your donations and support Arctic Home like OLG Point Edward Casino’s Bet on Green Team? Click here to make a difference! Donations will be matched dollar for dollar until March 15, 2013.

Also, check out WWF’s Living Planet @ Work for the free tools and ideas to engage your employees in environmental awareness at work. Sign up now!