Heart of Treasure Valley

Ice-cold warmheartedness: Great Polar Bear Challenge raises record amount for Make-A-Wish

About 350 people braved temperatures in the teens and the not-so-warm waters of Lucky Peak Reservoir to raise a record amount for Make-A-Wish in the annual Great Polar Bear Challenge.
About 350 people braved temperatures in the teens and the not-so-warm waters of Lucky Peak Reservoir to raise a record amount for Make-A-Wish in the annual Great Polar Bear Challenge.

The director of development for Make-A-Wish Idaho summed up the Great Polar Bear Challenge easily.

“This is the quickest event you will ever experience,” joked Jessica Budzianowski.

Which is true. People didn’t linger in Lucky Peak Reservoir’s chilly water by Springs Shores Marina, but even a splash was good enough. The 16th annual Polar Bear plunge raised $49,000 — with a $40,000 goal — for the nonprofit, which grants the wishes of children diagnosed with a life-threatening medical conditions.

Temperatures were in the teens, and a brisk wind came over the water. “That’s all right,” said Dan Giffin, whose team, Frozen Nuggets, raised $14,000. “We’ll live through it.”

At the countdown, about 350 people enthusiastically rushed into the water with splashing and screams. And just as quickly ran out — well, as quickly as their bodies would allow them to move.

“It’s going to be freezing,” said 15-year-old Madeline Wuthrich, who won the youth costume contest dressed as a pepperoni pizza.

A wish averages $6,500, so the courage — or foolhardiness — of 350 people will grant about six. This year’s plunge raised a record amount, Budzianowski said.

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