River Hospital’s virtual Polar Bear Dip raises $56K

Rachel Longamore, left, and Haley Aubertine jump into the frigid St. Lawrence River for River Hospital’s Polar Bear Dip in 2019. Watertown Daily Times

ALEXANDRIA BAY — Results are in for River Hospital’s first-ever virtual Polar Bear Dip, with the event surpassing its fundraising goal to bring an echocardiogram to the facility.

The event surpassed its goal of $50,000, raising more than $56,000 — almost half of the funds coming in from the event’s three top fundraising winners. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic required a pivot to a virtual event this year, the community and the hospital kept the tradition alive, and successfully raised the funds needed to purchase an echocardiogram for River Hospital.

The echocardiogram is a test that uses a form of ultrasound to show how heart muscle and valves are working.

“With every pivot that we’ve had to make through all this, we’ve come up with some silver lining,” said Stephanie Weiss, executive director of development at River Hospital. “We had folks from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida; people who have been following the dip for years were able to participate this year, which was, I think, really fun and it did help us broaden our donor base and our participant base, and that’s always a good thing in an event like this.”

A wide range of submissions from more than 60 participants across the country made River Hospital’s virtual 2021 Polar Bear Dip a huge success. Participants were asked to submit videos online this year and people could donate money to their favorite take on the traditional river jump.

Kids were also allowed to take the dip for the first time this year, contributing their own creative styles to the event.

“The needs are particularly important this year, it’s been such a challenging year for healthcare in general,” Ms. Weiss said. “We’ve felt that, but we’ve also just felt that response from the community. It’s challenging to feel and stay connected during this type of situation, but we really felt it- we felt our community responding.”

The Top Fundraising winners this year are as follows:

— Team Cody 22 won for Top Fundraising Team, raising almost $20,000

— Chelsea Smith won Top Individual Fundraiser, raising almost $3,000

— Bridgette Johnson won for Top Child Fundraiser, raising over $600

Dip submissions can still be viewed at riverhospital.org/news/upcoming-events. The final judging event was held Feb. 27, where the winners for style and costume were announced.

Those winners are as follows:

— Best Team Dip for Style: Clayton Youth Commission

— Best Individual Dip for Style: Richard Campany

— Best Child Dip for Style: The BoulderBergs

— Best Team Dip for Costume: Sister Act

— Best Individual Dip for Costume: Abominable Snow Mom

— Best Child Dip for Costume: Carson

Jeff Cole, longtime Polar Bear Dip emcee and WWNY-TV news anchor, once again hosted the final judging event Feb. 27. Judges included: Jeff Johnson, River Hospital’s safety officer and STAR Dive Team member; Wayne Strauss, River Hospital volunteer and professor of finance; Alex Hazard, Clayton Opera House board member; and Rebecca Hopfinger, Antique Boat Museum executive director.

Event organizers say that while they hope to return to an in-person event next year, many participants have asked for a continuation of the virtual option, so that children and seasonal residents can continue to participate and support the hospital through the Polar Dip Event.

“It looks like people really had a lot of fun with it and we all did, we all really enjoyed it,” Ms. Weiss said of the event. “We’re just really grateful for people showing up and being a part of something that nobody really knew how it was going to go, it was like making it up as you go along, but it came out really well.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(1) comment


Wonderful news...and congrats... what a great event for the community during extremely hard times!!

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