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Polar Bear Dippers raise $6,500 for youth centre 0

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Looks can deceive.

The one on Jim Edwards's face as he came up for air after jumping into frigid Lake Couchiching Sunday afternoon during the Orillia Winter Carnival's annual Polar Bear Dip said it was going to be his first and last time.

But he'd do it again.

The three or four seconds after hitting the water were the worst part.

"You kind of feel your heart stop for a second while you try and catch your breath," said the Orillia OPP constable, who, with the help of the detachment, raised more than $270 for the Orillia Youth Centre, the beneficiary of this year's dip.

"The youth centre is a great organization. They provide a place for kids... that don't have a place to go and they have lots of things for them to do when they're there," he said.

Edwards took the plunge alongside his 11-year-old daughter Addi, who raised $50 for the cause.

While she was nervous beforehand, the water wasn't as cold as she thought it was going to be.

Nonetheless, "the best part was getting out," said the Regent Park Public School student, with a deadpan expression on her face.

Orillia Coun. Paul Spears, also a first-time Polar Bear dipper, agreed.

When asked what the highlight of the jump was, he laughed, "when I was finished."

Spears, who was shuffled between boarding school and foster homes growing up, raised $600 for the youth centre, a cause close to his heart.

More than 100 people, including about a dozen from the youth centre, braved the elements as they floundered in the icy lake, raising close to $6,500 for the local non-profit.

Seven-year-old Ava Hunter looks forward to the carnival every winter.

Her favourite part is watching the dip.

"I just think it's cool. It looks fun," she said, although admitted she's not overly eager to participate.

Hunter also checked out the ice maze, dog sled rides, midway, snow slide and ate a Beaver Tail as she roamed the carnival with her family.

"It's fun to be outside. You're always stuck inside in the winter," said Melissa Rogers, who took in the festivities with her husband and daughters. "It's nice this year because it's not really cold."

The temperatures were ideal this weekend, said Orillia Winter Carnival president Chad Cooke.

"Our attendance is way up. Everything is way up," he said, noting this year has been the best since he took the reigns five years ago.

"I think the kids are all having a great time."

roberta.bell@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @roberta__bell  

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