Annual Polar Bear Swim for Sight returns

US&J FILE PHOTOThe first wave of swimmers run (or dive) into Lake Ontario at Olcott Beach during the 2017 Polar Bear Swim for Sight.

OLCOTT – This weekend people can shake off their winter cabin fever with a cold dip in Lake Ontario. The 49th annual Olcott Polar Bear Swim for Sight event will be held at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in Krull Park.

The Olcott Lions Club is the main organization that hosts the event. Organizer Bill Clark said it’s a great opportunity for people to get out of the house after being inside for winter.

“It’s a good day, because it’s sort of at the end of the winter and we’re turning the corner to spring. It’s one of the first days that people can get out from being cooped up,” he said.

Clark said many swimmers have a fun time and feel like they have accomplished something.

“They have a lot of fun. If you come down here you will see a lot of people laughing and having a fun time. It’s a challenge for them to go into the cold water and they feel like they’ve accomplished something,” he said.

About half of the swimmers are return swimmers, he added.

Clark, who is a member of the Olcott Lions, said that they host the event to help raise funds for the various causes that the organization supports.

Some of the organizations the donations go to include the Lions Blind and Charity Fund, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Diabetes Treatment and Research, Vision Beyond Sight, the Lions Disaster Relief Fund, Rainbow of Help, Children’s Variety Television, Children’s Summer Reading Program, Equi-Star Therapeutic Riding, Niagara Frontier Reading Service, Niagara Hospice, Local Food and Soup Kitchen, Olcott Beach Carousel Park and Community Projects, Olcott Lions Scholarship Fund and Olcott Volunteer Fire Company.

Swimmers are encouraged to fundraise and rewards are available for those that raise a certain amount. Swimmers that raise $25 will receive a T-shirt and those who raise $100 will receive a hoodie. Clark said the swimmers “respond well” to these initiatives.

Clark said that in the last few years the number of swimmers has decreased, but the event has been able to keep its revenue up because those swimmers have gotten better at fundraising for the event.

Over the past few years, there have been around 400 to 500 swimmers involved.

The event will have plenty of stuff to do for those that don’t want to take the plunge into the icy water. The Newfane High School girls lacrosse team will be having a chicken barbecue. Seven other Lions clubs will be providing hot dogs and sausage. The Olcott Volunteer Fire Company will also have chicken chowder.

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