By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
Go jump in a lake! Really, it’s for a good cause! Each winter Lake Anne Plaza hosts the Virginia Polar Dip, a fun and wacky fundraiser to benefit a camp for kids with life-threatening illnesses. This year’s event is on Saturday, February 1, 2020.
At this unusual but fun event, participants plunge into the icy waters of Lake Anne, raising money from pledges along the way. Don’t worry, the dip is quick, in shallow waters, and there are first responders right there in the lake to help guide you out (or you can take “the chicken dip” that doesn’t require jumping in). After the jumps, all participants can go change and warm up in the Reston Community Center right there at Lake Anne Plaza, and jumpers and spectators alike can enjoy some of the family-friendly activities around the event.
The Virginia Polar Dip was started locally by the Toth family in 2008 after a long history with Camp Sunshine, the beneficiary of the event. They first attended Camp Sunshine as a participating family in 1996 when their daughter Jennifer was a cancer patient at age 3 and have returned as volunteers every summer since then. After Jennifer participated in a Camp Sunshine Polar Dip in New Jersey, her family decided to bring the event to Virginia to help more local families.
Camp Sunshine, in Maine, is a year-round retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Nestled alongside the shores of beautiful Sebago Lake, it provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families through various stages of a child’s illness. The program is free of charge to all families, and includes 24-hour onsite medical and psychosocial support; the camp also offers bereavement groups. Since the camp’s founding in 1984, it has helped more than 40,000 family members from 48 states and 22 countries.
During the Polar Dip fundraiser for the camp, participants jump solo, in pairs, or in groups. One of the most fun parts is seeing the crazy outfits people come up with for their jumps: you may see a superhero, a clown, or more. And this is truly an all-ages event, because, yes, kids can jump! In 2014, for example, of 266 jumpers, the Virginia Polar Dip included 28 kids 12 and under. In fact, the Virginia Polar Dip has broken several records in the history of Camp Sunshine Polar Dips, such as most children who jump, and the highest amount of money raised ever in a Polar Dip, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
The money raised from the Polar Dip enables dozens of families from the Mid-Atlantic area to attend Camp Sunshine. Through pledges or self-sponsorship, each participant will raise/donate a minimum of $100 to take the plunge, and will receive a commemorative “I DID IT” event shirt. Spectators are welcome to come and cheer for the plungers. Like the idea but not a fan of jumping into icy waters? You also can participate in “the chicken dip,” where you still raise funds but only have to get your feet wet.
What: 11th Annual Freezin’ for a Reason (Virginia Polar Dip)
When: Saturday, February 1, 2020
Where: Lake Anne Plaza (Waterfront) – 1609 Washington Plaza, Reston, VA 20190
Time: Noon – 4 pm (Registration, Activities, Post-Dip Celebration). Actual Polar Dip Begins at 2 pm
Rain or Shine event (will be rescheduled if major snow storm is forecast)
Also see our full list of other upcoming “polar plunges” in our area!