Locals join Chilly Challenge

·3 min read

Recently, several people and groups from the area took on the “Chilly Challenge”, an alternative to the annual Polar Bear Dip organized by Childcan, a London-based charity.

Chilly Challenge participants are invited to “dash, splash or plunge” to raise money for children and families coping with a diagnosis of childhood cancer. Participants then post their chilling adventure to social media, and nominate three friends or groups to match the challenge.

Aylmer resident Andy Beck participated this year with videos of him receiving daily ice soaks for a week until the challenge ended on Saturday, March 6.

He initially considered a dip in Lake Erie in Port Stanley, but ultimately decided to get freezing ice water splashes from his family in the comfort of his own backyard. While he missed the community spirit of previous Polar Bear Dips, he was dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the cause from a distance.

“My daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was five years old and had it for two-and-a-half years,” said Mr. Beck, adding Childcan helped with a variety of unforeseen expenses, such as hospital parking, that came with the diagnosis and treatment.

Emily is now 18 and a cancer survivor. “When kids are sick, the families go through so much. Your whole life changes and there’s no choice.”

Mr. Beck has raised more than $1,825 this year, surpassing his original goal of $1,000. He has participated in the Polar Bear Dip and other Childcan fundraisers over the years, “paying forward” the support his family received.

Chilly Challenge welcomed group or individual participants.

Longtime Port Stanley resident Katey Berzins formed a group, “Team Ber” along with her niece Jodi Annett-Kish, nephew Carlo Cracciolo, and coworker Harold Berger. The team has participated

The group chose to make snow angels followed by an ice water bucket dump at Little Beach in Port Stanley, where traditionally the Polar Bear Dip would take place. “We wore tutus just to make it more fun,” said Ms. Berzins. The group raised $1,450.

Ms. Berzins worked with Mr. Berger when his young daughter, Sarah, was undergoing cancer treatments.

“Childcan was there for the family, supporting with hospital parking, meals, and more, and Harold always said he wanted to pay them back,” said Ms. Berzins. “When Childcan held their first Polar Dip, Harold and I were excited to be a part of it.”

This marks their seventh consecutive year participating in the initiative. Sarah Berger did the Polar Bear Dip in 2016 as a cancer survivor.

“I think everybody that participates in the Polar Dip feels like that little bit of discomfort is nothing compared to what children and families go through in their cancer battles,” said Ms. Berzins.

“The event is always full of love and laughter.”

Childcan provides financial assistance, emotional support, social programs, research funding to families across northwestern and soutwestern Ontario affected by childhood cancer. Chilly Challengers raised more than $30,000 for the charity this year.

Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express