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Record numbers take New Year's Day plunge

Lance Marais was thankful for several things as he plunged into Cultus Lake on New Year's Day.

Notably, that there wasn't snow on the ground for his already cold, wet feet to freeze in following the dip. But more importantly, the number of fellow plungers around him.

This year's Polar Bear Plunge at Cultus Lake had roughly 120 participants diving into the frigid waters, and between 300 and 400 total people at the event.

It was the most the annual plunge has seen in six years.

"People wise, we had definitely at least double, probably triple the number from previous years," said Marais, network and provincial outreach coordinator for BC Teen Challenge, organizers of the Polar Bear Plunge.

"It was fantastic, it was unbelievable, it was so overwhelming."

It was exactly what BC Teen Challenge had hoped for.

Six months ago, when organizers started putting together the event, they wanted to make it bigger than previous years. They wanted to attract more participants in hopes of creating more awareness in the community for their programs.

BC Teen Challenge is a 12-month, residential, outreach program, with a men's centre in Yarrow, for adults trapped in addiction.

This year's plunge raised approximately $3,300, which will be shared between the men's centre in Yarrow and the women's centre in Abbotsford. Of that, 92 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to the centres.

This was about growing the event and getting to know more people in the community.

"I'd never seen half of the people who came out; they were strangers, people from our community," said Marais.

"I hope to see everyone again next year."

Participants were thanked with free parking, free bowls of chili, free hot dogs, and free mugs of coffee and hot chocolate.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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