By Aaron Jahn
The Amherstburg Optimists along with Harrow Kinsmen once again braved the freezing waters of Lake Erie to raise money for their charitable works in the region.
The 10th Optimists Polar bear dip in Lake Erie was a success once again, raising money and heart rates for a good cause.
Brandon Renaud, President of the Amherstburg Optimists Club said this event is a major fundraiser for the Optimists, which brought in $2,435 this year. The money raised is used for their Christmas program and funding the construction of the pirate ship play structure in Colchester.
“We’re raising funds for the Optimists Christmas shopping and the pirate ship playground in Colchester,” said Renaud. “We’ve been doing this for ten years now (polar bear dip) and every year it just gets bigger and better, we had 30 people take a dip this year and after expenses we raised over $2400.”
Brandon watches the dippers from the sidelines and says it takes a lot of chutzpah to brave the frigid waters in December.
“Guts and the will to help out others in need and just a lot of courage overall,” said Renaud.
He also thanked Shooters Roadhouse and their owner Keith Bridgen, who provide the space every year for the dippers and their supporters to register, stay warm and eat hearty food before and after the dip.
“Shooters provides the food, the location for the hot tub and dunk tank and Keith has supported us from day one. He goes above and beyond everything we could expect,” Renaud said.
Bridgen credits their participation to civic awareness and a great staff who donate some of their own time every year to help.
“It’s just a great opportunity to give back to the community and have some fun at the same time. I try to help out as much as I can,” said Bridgen. “My staff participates, we had two of our waitresses from Amhersrtburg did the dip this year, our one waitress who did it last year, she just had a baby and did it again this year.”
“My whole staff really rallies behind us, my kitchen staff come in early and do extra prep work and extra help. Everyone really steps up and I’m proud of all of my staff.”
Both Bridgen and Renaud were quick to thank the businesses in the community that helped them by donating door prizes and equipment to them.
“We donate all the food, free hot dogs and chili dogs, nachos chips, etc for the people after the jump, with the door prizes we do the t-shirts,” said Bridgen. “A friend of ours, BFX Designs, does all the screen printing for us.”
“Sharp bus lines, they donate the bus every year. I’d like to thank the hot tub company as well, Beachcomber, we were connected to them through the Kinsmen and they donate the hot tub and an electrician to come and hook it up. They really stepped up for us this year.”
Other donors included Party Central who donated half the cost of the dunk tank, Racicot Chrysler, Music on Wheels and the Town Shoppe along with many others.