By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
MILFORD – The Goodyear Lake Polar Bears will have to wait another year for the plunge.
“We regret to inform all of our loyal supporters that the 25th annual Goodyear Lake Polar Bear Jump has been canceled due to a recent motor vehicle accident involving Brenda and Jamie Waters,” she wrote on the group’s Facebook page Tuesday evening. “Goody, The Waters Family and all of our dedicated volunteers will miss the brave and loyal jumpers this year.”
But it’s not the end – Brenda said the 25th anniversary jump will return next year.
The annual event, which attracts more than 200 to plunge into ice-covered Goodyear Lake every
February, has raised over $1 million, donated for children struggling with chronic illnesses.
Though she and her husband, Jamie, did their first polar bear jump in the St. Lawrence Seaway, they soon brought the idea home, with their first jump in 1997.
“I told him, ‘We don’t need to drive up there, we have cold water here!’” said Brenda. “We wanted to raise money for our church, so we did it ourselves.”
The next year, they added a local girl, Carlie Barry, then 3, who had cancer. “We just added recipients and jumpers every year.”
There were 11 jumpers the first year, and this year, nearly 300 brave souls took the plunge and raised more than $130,000, a record amount, for 16 recipients.
“I don’t know where they get that selfless courage,” said Brenda. “It’s crazy.”
They also do fundraising drives for the event that don’t require a bathing suit and a strong constitution, including the annual Chinese Auction at the Milford Central School, as well as fundraisers through the local schools.
“One hundred percent of the funds raised go to our recipients,” said Brenda. “I love to say that.”
However, the Waterses have come up with a way to continue fundraising for the recipients who have been selected. In January, there will be a contest to design a “No Fear” shirt, and the winning design will be printed on shirts and given to donors who give $100 or more.
They’ll also be hosting a songwriting contest, where local choral groups will compete to be in a Five Star Subaru commercial and participate in a song with up-and-coming country star Rylee Lum, the 12-year-old singer from Gilbertsville.
“People keep coming up to me with all these creative ideas,” she said. “And I want to encourage people to step up and come up with their own fundraisers. We want to keep people interested during this ‘skip year.’”
And the Waterses will also use the time to reorganize their website, including documenting the charity’s history, past recipients and more.
“I hand out cards whenever I travel, but then people tell me they can’t get on the site,” she said. “I want to get our history out there, pictures from the previous jumps and all the articles that have been written about us.”
The website, www.pbjump.com, will also have updates on events, contests and more.
“We look forward to seeing you again on Feb. 20, 2021,” she said.