With events around the province cancelled, those who would normally participate in Kelowna’s annual polar bear plunge had to get creative.
Normally on the afternoon of New Years Day, thousands would be running towards the frigid Okanagan Lake waters in support of CRIS Adaptive Adventures, an organization which gets people with disabilities outdoors.
Since provincial health guidelines prohibit gatherings and events from taking place, fundraising was done on an individual basis.
“Instead of running into the lake with thousands of other people, we’re asking people to invent their own ‘Freezing for a Reason’ activity,” said Shelley Buchanan Gilmore, CEO of CRIS.
One participant took a video of themselves eating ice cream while walking into the frozen lake. Another went on a 15-minute swim. One person was mummified in snow.
Since fundraising began Nov. 1, CRIS has raised over $25,000 of their $50,000 goal. It costs $20 to participate in the challenge.
Instead of jumping in the lake, which this morning measured a balmy 6C, Cody Petrone, a lived-experience ambassador for CRIS, instead opted to make a snow angel near the lake.
Sitting in his wheelchair at the base of Knox Mountain, Petrone stripped down to his shorts and maneuvered himself onto the snow. Paralyzed from the waist down due to a trucking injury in 2018, he used his arms to move his legs back and forth, to form the bottom of the angel.
Cold but happy, he gave a thumbs up to the camera.
Since becoming disabled, he has been promoting the program. CRIS takes Central Okanagan residents like Petrone on hiking, cycling, paddling, snowshoeing and sit-skiing adventures.
“For people that are disabled and feel like they can’t do anything, CRIS brings that part of their life back… they get to sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery we have here in the Okanagan,” said Petrone.
CRIS finished the year off 40-50 per cent below their normal annual revenue, which makes this campaign even more crucial for their operations. They’re hoping to soon replace several of their vehicles, which they use to transport people into the outdoors.
“We break down barriers to the outdoors through equipment knowledge but also financial barriers… We really could use the support to get this one across the finish line, so that 2021 programs can continue getting people with disabilities into the great outdoors,” said Buchanan.
To register to freeze, or simply donate to CRIS, visit Trellis.org/CRISpolarbearchallenge. The Freezing for a Reason campaign ends Jan. 15.
To learn more about CRIS, click here.
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