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February 14, 2013

Polar Bear Jump is a leap of love

It may seem a little crazy to be jumping into an upstate New York lake in the middle of winter, but hundreds of people will be doing just that on Saturday. 

Some say they do it for the adrenaline rush or for the thrill, but most take the plunge because it is for a good cause. 

Organizer Brenda Waters said, “Most do it to help children with illnesses and to be part of a community event.” 

The first jump started in 1996 with 11 participants who jumped just for fun. This will mark the 18th year of the Goodyear Polar Bear Jump, a fundraiser that helps children, individuals and organizations in need.   

Last year’s event brought in more than $100,000, the most money since the jump’s inception, according to organizers. Jamie Waters, who was inspired to start the jump by a similar fundraising event on the St. Lawrence Seaway years ago, said there was a big celebration when hitting the $100,000 mark. The event has been averaging in the $80,000-range the past few years, he said. 

Spectators were asked to stay off the ice and watch from atop an overlooking hill last year because of extremely warm temperatures and thin ice. According to Brenda, even if Mother Nature does cooperate this year, organizers may keep the crowd back from the ice again to keep things more organized. 

“I liked it better that way,” she said. “It scares me when all of those people are down on that ice.”

Brenda said she really is not afraid of not having enough ice for this year’s event, which will kick off at 12:30 p.m. 

“That cove that we are in keeps ice really nice. That is why we moved it (jumping location) from across the lake. We are not on the river there,” she said.   

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