Hurricane – Dressed in fake beards, Santa suits, other costumes and swimsuits, about 30 people gathered on Saturday morning for the second annual polar dive at Quail Creek State Park.
Some of the more daring divers at the arctic dive jump off the floating docks, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 1, 2022 | Photo Courtesy of Ava Stephenson, St. George News
Swimmers braved water temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a significant wind chill that made the air around the lake even colder.
After loading into the icy waters, the participants returned to shore with varying urgency as they searched for heaters and dry clothes at close range. But perhaps what warmed their hearts was the cause they’d gathered to support: raising money for the Washington County Children’s Justice Center.
“We wanted to do something fun and light-hearted to benefit the Justice Center, and it’s just incredible that everyone came to the Children’s Center to support the Children’s Center,” said Bill Ennis, owner of Dig Paddlesports and co-organizer of the event. “We had about twice as many people than last year, despite it being one of the colder days we’ve had in the past month, plus the wind.”
Groups of 3-6 people took turns taking the plunge, some going up to their waists alone and others diving in and taking a short dip. The participants ranged in age from young children to retirees and came from all over Southern Utah to start the first morning of the new year in a memorable way.
A trio of friends feel the bite of the icy water as they run into the lake, Hurricane, Utah, January 1, 2022 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News
Registration was free, but donations to the judicial center were encouraged and representatives were on hand to accept cash and explain the functions of the judicial center.
Tina Harris, a member of the local nonprofit’s Friends Council, said the children and families receiving support through the center often come from dangerous domestic situations with few resources to seek help or prevent abuse.
She said the money donated will go towards maintaining the children’s center and expanding its services. With a mission to end child abuse in Southern Utah, the center provides medical support, therapy, family counseling and coordinates with local law enforcement to protect children.
“I’m just impressed,” Harris said. “I’m so surprised people want to do this for a fundraiser – I think they’re all a little crazy, but it’s for a good cause, so I appreciate them doing this.”
Crazy or not, some swimmers went back two, three or even four times to submerge further into the blue-green depths of the reservoir.
“The first time I wasn’t terribly cold, I thought I’d do it again,” said Douglas Fox, a longtime resident of Southern Utah who currently lives in Parowan. “The second time it was a bit lively. This third time: I’m ready.”
With a personal passion born of a 27-year career in juvenile justice, Fox said he was eager to support the local center. He attributed his resistance to the cold to prolonged exposure to warm weather in Las Vegas and has participated in many arctic dives throughout the region for a variety of reasons.
As the second year in a row with such an event at Quail Creek, Dig Paddlesports organizers teamed up with other local businesses to secure funds and labor to cover the costs of the event’s setup, management and safety protocols.
A father makes a splash as he and his son take the plunge, Hurricane, Utah, January 1, 2022 | Photo Courtesy of Ava Stephenson, St. George News
Participants were required to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks associated with jumping into the chilly lake. State park officials and emergency medical services were on hand to provide assistance in the event of an emergency.
After the final dive, organizers handed out prizes from local business partners, including gift cards, custom footwear and recreation packs. The top prize for best costume was split between a man dressed as “Santa Claus” and a man dressed as “New Year’s Baby.”
“We wanted it to be something people would love to do and tell their friends about,” Ennis said. “It’s a ridiculous factor of 12 out of 10, but it helps the childcare center and it’s a fun way to tackle a really tough topic. This is just something our family loves to do.”
On Saturday morning alone, organizers raised more than $200 for the justice center, expecting even more to be raised by donating online, Harris said.
Looking ahead, Dig Paddlesports will be setting up a “Poker Paddle” on April 9. Proceeds from the event will go to the local Kinnick family to help treat their son’s osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. More information about the event and the injured family can be found on the website of the recreation company.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.
Ammon Teare has always considered Southern Utah his home away from home as he spent summers and vacations visiting family in Cedar City and St. George. With a love for the wilderness and a passion for writing, he’s dreamed of becoming a reporter since elementary school. After moving from Texas to New Mexico to Utah in his youth, Ammon studied journalism at Utah State University, graduating in May 2020. In his spare time, watch the Utah Jazz or play a board game. with his wife, walking in nature, or stretched out in a comfortable place to read a fantasy novel.