Niagara Gazette

March 1, 2013

Making the Polar Bear swim a family tradition in Olcott

BY BILL WOLCOTT
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — OLCOTT — With the Polar Bear Swim For Sight going into its 44th Sunday at Olcott Beach, the tradition has become three generational.

Grandparents have passed "Freezing for a Reason" tradition to their children and their grandchildren. That's the case with Dave Kirkpatrick of Lockport, his daughter Carol Noon and his grandson, Trevor, 15, of Olcott.

"It takes a special character," said Bill Clark of the sponsoring Olcott Lions Club. Clark has been the chairmen for 18 years. He took over from Mike Rann, who founded of Olcott's fundraiser in 1968.

Clark is not one of those "special characters" who splashes in the frigid Lake Ontario water, but he is one of the special characters who keep the tradition alive. He wil be on site Sunday, working at the registration table and standing on the inclined bank at Krull Park with other Lions.

Kirkpatrick, who was working at Delphi in 2001, accepted the business challenge to raise $1,000 for the Lions Club. The Vietnam veteran who was assigned to the 101st Airborne warned he would not go in the lake if he couldn't raise $1,000. A member of the Lions since 1998, he raised raised $3,465, getting much if the money from the guys at work.

His buddies also gave him advise prior to the dip. He was told to run in and run out and told to wear as few clothes as possible. Acclimate yourself.

Kirkpatrick wore little, a bikini bottom. But, instead of running in and running out, he was the first in and last out. He ducked his head in the icy lake three times and said he came out with brain freeze.

He was told as long as he shivered, he would be fine, but if you stop shivering, get help. It took about three hours for Kirkpatrick to stop shivering and recover.

"It's invigorating," he said. "I don't like cold."

His son-in-law, Kirk Noon, captured the occasion and took pictures of Kirkpatrick in the water, out of he water, and with the Polar Queen candidates.

Kirkpatrick, who was 57 at the time, retired at 60. The day after he retired, he was discovered with stage thee colon cancer. He had chemotherapy and his cancer is in remission. Cander has kept him from going back in the water, but his daughter Carol later took the plunge as did and his grandson Trevor.

Trevor, who went in the swim with a cast on his broken arm, is now an honor student at Newfane High School.

"We're big on supporting things," said Kirkpatrick who has four children with his wife Judy, a native of Olcott. "Carol wanted to carry on the on tradition."

Kirkpatrick has to avoid frostbite and will be working at a table with portable heaters Sunday.

While registration does not begin until 11 a.m., Clark expects another good turnout of swimmers and spectators — more if it's a sunny day.

Clark expects about 20 busloads of Polar Bears and friends from Niagara Falls, Lockport, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda and Grand Island. Many come in limousines. There have been many questions on the website.

"The interest seems to be there," Clark said. "More people come out in good weather. It's the first outdoor event of the new season and people are anxious to get outdoors adn see friends."

The Lions encouraged swimmers raise at least $100 for one of key fundraisers in the community.

Tailgate parking begins at 10 a.m. The Polar Bear Queen contest is at 1:45 p.m. and children under 18 go in at 1:50 p.m. The Swim for Sight begins at 2 p.m.

OLCOTT BEACH Polar Bear schedule 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Tailgate party parking 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- Swim registration 1:45 p.m. -- Polar Bear Queen Contest 1:50 p.m. -- Swimmers under18 2 p.m.-- Swim for Sight Access times will be scheduled in 15 minute intervals. $100 fundraisers will receive preferred first access.