Feature Story                                                                                   Wednesday, January 8, 2013


In the Swim!

BC Teen Challenge makes a big splash, raises a truckload of money with

Polar Bear fundraiser

Staff/Voice photos


Swimmers take off from the shore of Cultus Lake in the BC Teen Challenge Polar Bear Swim on New Year's morning.


hat a difference a year makes.

Last Wednesday, a few hundred people lined the shores and docks of Cultus Lake to watch about 120 registered Neptunians run, wade and otherwise fall into the water at the First Annual BC Teen Challenge (BCTC) Polar Bear Swim.


BCTC Network coordinator Lance Marais told the Voice in an e-mail this week that they managed to raise an astounding $3380.


Previous swims were just warm-ups for the Christian-based drug rehabilitation centre. Every January 1, the guys from the Yarrow centre manned-up for a dip in the frigid lake. Huge fun.

In 2014, aquatic celebrants got off easy with the temperature a balmy 4C. In previous first mornings it's been much, much colder.

Last year, realizing that Chilliwack didn't have it's own Polar Bear Swim and that they have a constant need for funding, Pastor Darrell Lahay decided to do a public fundraising event.


According to Lahay, it was the right thing to do and the community responded in droves to support the event.

"We're so surprised to see this many people here. We're overwhelmed with the response," Lahay told the Voice at the lake. "So many people responded to our newspaper articles and posters around town and this is time that we decided to go big and make it a fundraiser."


There was tee shirt sales and hot dogs all to help the cause.

"We've got a lot of community groups and businesses helping us and partnering with us. We've got Janet Development here cooking hot dogs and it's a great feel. Everybody's here, the weather's not too chilly and some people are happy about that," he said.

Pretty good for a first annual Polar Bear outing at Cultus Lake in support of BC Teen Challenge.

Safety was paramount issue for Lahay.

"Our whole goal is to make this event fun, safe and organized, and show these people that they can help make a difference in the community, that they're giving to a good cause," explained Lahay. "We have a lot of people on site just to kind of keep an eye on things, for instance St. John Ambulance is here."

This year, people were asked to enter the water off of the beach, unlike in previous years when they plunged in off the frost-covered docks.

Sure Polar Bear Swims are fun, but there is a serious side to BCTC, and what the community may not know is that their program has one of the highest success rates in the world. But it's not without effort for the sixteen men currently enrolled in the program.

"Not all the students make it though, it's a real tough program. It's rigorous and challenging," said Lahay.

"Probably about a good 60-70 per cent of the guys who come graduate and move on to many years of success."

"We get new intakes all the time. We have a couple more guys coming in the new year here and the holidays were a great time," concluded Lahay.

The best thing of all about the polar bear swim? Sixteen men got to see a community backing them.



Listen to the countdown here.

See also some Voice photos from previous years on Google Images here.

Connect with BC Teen Challenge online at www.bcteenchallenge.com



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