Hundreds plunge into icy cold Lucky Peak to start New Year

Hundreds plunge into icy cold Lucky Peak to start New Year


by Bonnie Shelton

Bio | Email | Follow: @BonnieKTVB


Posted on January 1, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 2 at 8:05 AM

BOISE -- Hundreds of people jumped in icy cold water at Lucky Peak Reservoir Wednesday to kick off 2014.

The Great Polar Bear Challenge is in its 11th year, and the event continues to grow in popularity, becoming a New Year's tradition for many people in the Treasure Valley.

It was 34 degrees outside, but the sun was out and the water was just above freezing.

Hundreds of people turned out to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes for children battling life-threatening medical conditions.

"It does grow every year," said Gary Arbaugh, Great Polar Bear Challenge chairman.

Arbaugh says it costs more than $6,000 to grant a child's wish, so the popularity of this event makes a real difference.

Participants go all out. Some, like our own Larry Gebert, even strap on water skis.

Many aren't afraid to wear just their swimsuits, even speedos, in the freezing water.

"Amazing actually. It doesn't feel bad. It's when you come out is when it's the worst," said Alexander Balderas, a participant from Boise.

The fundraising goal this year was $50,000 -- a number that organizers say they exceeded.

"It gives you a real feel good attitude and it makes you feel good about the public in general, so it's really a fun deal," said Arbaugh.

All thanks to the generosity of a community that's willing to suffer a little for a good cause.

A record number of people took part in this year's Great Polar Bear Challenge. Organizers hope to make it an even bigger event next year.

This was also the first year a costume contest was held at the event.