Grandmother Gail to take third annual polar plunge for African grandmothers

This will be the third year Grandmother Gail will take the plunge at a Portsmouth Olympic Harbour. Submitted photo.

For the third year in a row, Grandmother Gail will be braving the winter waters of Lake Ontario to raise funds for grandmothers in Africa.

Grandmother Gail, a member of Kingston Grandmother Connection (KCG) is making her third annual polar plunge on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. She hopes to stay in the frosty waters of Portsmouth Olympic Harbour – where water temperatures average around 2.8 degrees Celsius this time of year – for six minutes to raise much-needed awareness and funds for African families decimated by the AIDS Pandemic.

The KGC supports the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmother to Grandmother Campaign and Help Lesotho with fundraising events throughout the year. Both of these highly-regarded Canadian charities support programs in 15 African countries aimed at helping African grandmothers and their families.

“I am NOT a swimmer, but the rush and rejuvenation from cold immersion is just thrilling! When I first dared my boys to join me in a cold plunge a few years ago, I found that I liked it (they didn’t), and then thought that perhaps we could raise some money with this venture,” Gail told Kingstonist.

“I got involved with the Kingston Grandmother Connection after I visited Uganda in 2013 with Canadian Feed the Children. We visited projects in many villages and I was so impressed with the important work accomplished by local volunteer groups supported by NGOs that I immediately learned about and joined the Kingston Grandmother Connection,” she continued.

For her first polar plunge, in the very early days of 2022, Gail had a goal of $500. You could say it was successful, bringing in a whopping $4,500. The following year the KGC raised $5,000, and they hope to see that level of donations again this year.

“When the AIDS epidemic swept through many African countries, it left orphaned children. It was their grannies who took these children into their homes and have raised them and continue to do this,” Barb Thomson, volunteer with KGC, shared with Kingstonist earlier this year. “The Stephen Lewis Foundation and Help Lesotho strive to help grandmothers and their families and those living in poverty to build resilience through skill building, health care, parenting assistance and practical projects that ease the burden of their day-to-day lives.”

Gail, and everyone at the KCG, would love to have lots of people out to cheer her on and to support the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the grannies in Africa who are strengthened by the funds raised by KCG events. Last year, the event brought out between 60 and 70 spectators, but the Kingston Grandmother Connection would love to see more!

Everyone is welcome to come and watch Grandmother Gail take the plunge at Portsmouth Harbour on New Year’s Eve. They hope to make it a party, so bring your bling and your dancing shoes! Gail will get wet at 12 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023.

Donations will be collected on-site and are also welcome in advance. For more information and to donate, visit the Kingston Grandmother Connection Polar Plunge event page.

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