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Montreal’s Polar Bear challenge raises over $100,000 for Special Olympics

Hundreds of Montrealers, law enforcement officers, politicians and athletes braved the cold Saturday for the 17th annual Polar Bear challenge in Montreal’s Lachine borough.

The event is one of several held worldwide and the money raised goes to Special Olympics6′ programs. It was a mild -17 C with the wind chill on the St. Lawrence River Saturday afternoon.

“It’s an event for social inclusion essentially. We have athletes that will be jumping in water cold water with police officers,” said Daniel Granger, Special Olympics Quebec board chair.

“Essentially, every time we raise about 400 dollars we can keep an athlete active for 12 months,” he added.

About 75 per cent of the Special Olympics funding comes from these types of events.

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“It’s very useful. We have about now 8,000 athletes more or less,” said Granger.

The event also recognizes athletes like Lenna Baldoni, who competes in snowshoeing, swimming and track and field.

“I am so excited for the polar plunge. This is my first time in my life, it’s on my bucket list,” said Baldoni.

Participants also included emergency service personnel from different municipalities.

“Give some time and some money for those kids, it’s very important,” said Montreal police deputy Chief Marc Charbonneau.

Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic, who was participating for a sixth year, said her whole staff is always on board.

“The politicians in Lachine are jumping, our staff, our directors are jumping so we are very proud to be a part of this,” she said.

Quebec’s minister responsible for relations with First Nations and Inuit, Ian Lafrèniere, and Liberal MNA Enrico Ciconne were amongst the first to take the plunge.

“We are jumping together and we are having a good time teasing each other, but we are together for the cause,” said Lafrenière.

“It’s so special you know, with the special Olympics, the athletes are our heroes. It’s painful for a few minutes but it’s for a great cause,” added Ciconne.

Between Quebec City’s polar plunge that took place earlier in February and Montreal’s, the two events raised nearly $200,000 this year.

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