Team Mills was part of the Lions Club Polar Bear Challenge in Haliburton's Head Lake Park last year. Team Mills won best team costume. This year's event is scheduled for Saturday Feb. 16 and organizers are encouraging people to participate. /DARREN LUM File photo

Brave souls invited to take the Polar Bear Challenge

By Jenn Watt

Published Feb. 6 2019

Perhaps it’s the prospect of an icy cold plunge that brings people together; maybe it’s the charities the Polar Bear Challenge benefits. Or it could be the thrill of casting off winter coats and boots in the middle of February and charging headlong into Head Lake.

Whatever the motivation each of the last seven years dozens of people have signed up to participate in the Haliburton and District Lions Club’s fundraiser for SickKids Garron Family Cancer Centre and Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation raising more than $45000 between the two.

This year’s event takes place during Haliburton’s Frost Festival on Saturday Feb. 16.

Jim Frost one of the Polar Bear Challenge’s organizers said the event brings out silly antics and also touching stories.

“The second year we had the event I had a call from a gentleman in Cambridge and he had heard about our event. He had been taking his boy to SickKids for years and he wanted to be part of it” he said. The man’s friend cottaged in the Highlands so he came up to take part.

Last year a group of friends and family came together to honour the life of Phoenix Acero who died in 2017. Their team gathered the most pledges for charity.

Prizes are given out for best costume (individuals and teams) and most pledges (individuals and teams) donated by Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride McKecks Just Wine and Beer Maple Avenue Restaurant and Haliburton Home Hardware.

To give polar participants a place to prepare for their brave descent into frigid water Haliburton Timber Mart donates the use of two sheds which are brought in on a flatbed truck the day before. The sheds are heated and give participants a place to get ready and also somewhere to dash into once they’re out of the water.

Mike Iles of the Haliburton Fire Department is in charge of organizing firefighters who help keep everyone safe.

“He goes early in the morning and they clear the beach area and put carpet down to make the footing secure. He sets that up and makes sure the ice is clear” Frost said.

Algonquin Highlands firefighters bring their water rescue equipment and are on hand giving participants comfort that there is help available if needed.

“We think this is great of them to do that” Frost said.

New this year all participants will receive a T-shirt that reads “I survived the Haliburton Lions Club’s polar bear challenge.” The shirts are sponsored by Curry Chevrolet Buick GMC Ltd. and Emmerson Lumber.

“Nobody’s out of pocket” Frost said. “It doesn’t affect the money going to SickKids [or HHHSF]. Every dollar collected goes to those hospitals.”

To join in the fun pick up a pledge form at Cranberry Cottage Haliburton Foodland Todd’s Independent Grocers West Guilford Shopping Centre or go online to

Registration takes place from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday Feb. 16 at Head Lake Park and the event starts in the same location at 1 p.m. For more information contact Jim Frost at 705-457-4031.