A few seconds of cold in freezing water can produce community impact that lasts much longer.
That’s what Cheyenne White told herself Sunday afternoon before she jumped into freezing water for the Polar Bear Dip at the Severn Winterfest.
“It’s cold, but part of it is knowing you’re doing something for a good cause,” said the 15-year-old, who was one of several youth jumping on behalf of the Orillia Youth Centre (OYC).
“It’s definitely nerve wracking when you’re thinking about jumping in,” she said. “But it’s only two seconds.”
White was giving advice to Kaylyn Bushey, who was jumping for the first time.
“I’m scared, kind of, more nervous than scared,” said the 12-year-old. “The most awkward part is that people that don’t know me are watching me.”
But, “I can do it,” was Bushey’s mantra for going through with the jump.
“The youth centre is a great place for kids to hang out,” she said. “You can make new friends. You can talk to staff is about something that’s bothering you.”
It’s the new experiences and opportunities that White feels are the best part of the youth centre. She said she has been able to join a skiing team, visit Toronto and present the key to the city to Styx band member Chuck Panozzo, all thanks to the efforts of OYC staff and the funding they receive.
“I’ve gained a lot of friends, confidence in myself and to talk to people and welcoming others (to the centre),” she said. “They’re my family now.”
Last year, the event raised more than $6,000 for Mariposa House Hospice, said Chad Cooke, president of the Severn Winterfest committee.
“We raised more than $3,600 today and had about 25 people jumping in,” he said.
The money will be divided between the OYC and the Marchmont Community Park.
“We’ve been asking for funds to clean up the ball diamond that’s out there,” said Anne Loxton, a Marchmont resident and member of the Marchmont Ratepayers Association. “We will get permanent bases and balls and bats for the kids to use or anyone who wants to use it.”
Severn Mayor Mike Burkett jumped in the frigid water in support of his community and the festival.
“This is just above and beyond our support for the community,” he said, adding council likes to take care of every community within the township.
“It’s our community and coming out to take part shows our support. Plus, causes they’re raising money for raises awareness in the community and the good things they do," he said.
Kevin Gangloff, executive director of the OYC, was proud that so many of the youth at the centre had come forward to participate and give back to the community.
“We just asked them and they decided to do it,” he said. “One of the biggest pieces at the youth centre is how to give back to groups in the community. It’s important to instil that into anyone that we’re all part of one community.”
Dozens of people came out to watch and cheer on participants taking the plunge. Onlookers enjoyed other Winterfest activities before and after the dip.