Local Special Olympian Brian Secker gives a friendly push to Constable Dana Darlington of the Gananoque Police Service during Monday’s Polar Plunge in support of the Special Olympics. Monday’s event took place at the Water Street boat dock and raised roughly $4,000. (Keith Dempsey/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)

Gananoque Mayor John Beddows let out a thunderous roar and led those in attendance in a “hip hip hooray” cheer to express congratulations and gratitude towards the completion of another successful Polar Plunge event.

He was soaked, having just jumped into the icy St. Lawrence River, braving the cold for a cause that is near and dear to the hearts of those who participate and help organize this annual event – the Special Olympics.

“This isn’t important because I’m here, but it is important and that is why I am here,” said Beddows, moments before he made his leap into the water.

Beddows was decked out with a yellow T-shirt with numerous happy faces on it, black shorts and a towel. He was prepared for his leap.

“This is about supporting real athletes, who are chasing dreams of excellence and trying to achieve those dreams, showing them that the community is behind them as they chase those dreams. That’s what this is. People will jump into the river to help others chase their dreams. How can you not get behind that?”

Roughly 30 or so members of the community took part in Monday’s Polar Plunge event in Gananoque, including volunteers from emergency services and local businesses.

About $4,000 was raised, and the Water Street boat dock was packed with onlookers and community support.

“That’s great,” said Sergeant Lynsay Dickson of the Gananoque Police Service. “That surpasses what we initially thought we’d raise.”

In what has become a bit of a tradition over the last couple of years, local Special Olympian Brian Secker, gave a friendly push to Constable Dana Darlington to help her with her jump into the water.

“We love doing that,” said Darlington.

“It’s a good push,” replied Secker, with a laugh. “And it’s a fun day.”

Police Chief Scott Gee took a quick plunge, too, which generated a healthy applause from the crowd.

“It’s always an honour to be able to put together an event like this and support Special Olympics Ontario, but more specifically, to celebrate and support our local athletes,” said Darlington, as the boat dock began to get filled in with spectators.

“We’ve been doing it for a few years now, between our plunge, our torch run, the Doughnut Day. Our officers come out and get to meet and know the athletes at events like this, so it adds the personal experience to it, getting to know the person you are supporting.”

Dickson, who along with Darlington, has helped organize these events locally for the Special Olympics over the last few years, said Monday’s polar plunge, which was well received by the community, is a sign that this event is continuing to grow year after year.

“This shows we have buy-in from the community,” said Dickson.

“Each year we seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and this year we opened it up, with teams from local businesses, Home Hardware, the police department, fire department, members from the police services board, Mayor John Beddows, and I think that’s important. It shows everyone is on the same page and willing to chip in and show that support.”

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