Organizer Brian McKinney feeling fresh after a dip in Kawkawa Lake. (Chris Duchaine/Black Press)

People from across the Fraser Valley dive into Hope’s Kawkawa Lake on New Year’s Day

The 2nd annual polar bear swim was sponsored by the Lions Club and organized by Brian McKinney

Although thousands of people splash in Kawkawa Lake every summer, once its waters cool, the swimmers head for warmer waves. That is, until New Year’s Day, when more than 50 people took the plunge into Kawkawa Lake’s chilly waters on January 1 to celebrate 2019’s arrival.

“There’s no chainsaw required this year as the weather is warmer (than last year), but it will still be cold,” said Shannon Jones, vice president of Hope’s Lions Club, the day before the event.

For the second year in a row, the local Lions Club is sponsoring the lakeside polar bear swim to ring in the new year. “Our motto is, ‘We serve.’ Wherever there’s a need, we’re there to help, and this is a great opportunity,” added Jones.

RELATED: Breathtaking scenery for polar bear swim on Kawkawa Lake

With people starting to arrive on scene at about 11 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Brian McKinney, the event’s organizer, said he estimated that by the time swimmers were ready, there were about “200 people (who) showed up, and probably … at least 50 swimmers. I (even) heard there were some people from further down in the Valley.”

After White Rock’s pier was destroyed in mid-December, Jones said says she extended an invitation to their Rotary Club—which has a history of conducting a polar plunge off that pier—to join Hope’s New Year’s swim. “It’s a tradition people have every year, and we’re inviting them to Hope to experience a different kind of polar bear swim, that’s my thinking.”

McKinney says he previously started jumping into Kawkawa’s waters with a group of friends, and even solo, but wanted to make it a wider community event, so he approached the Lions Club to sponsor the event in 2017 with the goal to grow it each year.

READ MORE: Man rescued after B.C. city’s pier breaks up in wind storm

“There were way more jumping in this year than last,” said Jones during a telephone interview from the event. “Even I actually did it! It was really awesome, a bucket list item, but it’s too cold to do it again!”

There was also a prize basket provided by an anonymous donor for the best-dressed swimmer. “The staff from Home Restaurant ran in in their Home Restaurant shirts and homemade tutus. They won the basket,” added Jones.

“People from Chilliwack who were following the hype, took the drive because it’s a nice day, (and dove into our waters),” said McKinney from the event. “The water was a balmy five-degrees, it’s a beautiful setting, great vibe, great mood, the fire’s going and people are still hanging and talking.”

To raise money for community efforts, the Lions Club provided hot chocolate, coffee, hot dogs, pop, and popcorn for a few dollars a piece for people to enjoy around the large, 10-foot-long fire pit they use for the annual Santa Ride.

“The Lions Club puts all money back into the community,” said Jones. “Last year we put $45,000 back into Hope.”


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Hundreds in attendance. Chris Duchaine/Black Press

Brian McKinney behind the megaphone. (Chris Duchaine/Black Press)

Organizer Brian McKinney after his dip into Kawkawa. (Chris Duchaine/Black Press)

The polar bear swim. Chris Duchaine/Black Press)

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