Students from Ocean Grove Elementary joined 11-year-old Sylas Thompson’s fundraiser on Friday afternoon by going for a dip in the cold ocean off Tyee Spit.
The Grade 6 student has pledged to swim everyday until he reaches $30,000 to split between the Women’s Resource Centre and Grassroots Kind Hearts, which provide services to people struggling with poverty.
There were nearly 30 students from the school’s leadership club taking part, all in Grade 5, said teacher Lisa Luoma. Some were on the beach providing support, while others jumped in the water.
Among them was Graysen Anderson, who said it was “really, really cold” but was glad to help people in need.
Jake Campbell, another Ocean Grove student, said it was his first time swimming in the ocean during the winter. Asked why he was taking part, he said “for charity, and homeless people.”
Ten-year-old Rachel Desjarlais agreed, saying “it’s getting people off the streets.”
The leadership club opted to join Thompson for the polar bear swim after he spoke to the group about his fundraiser on Tuesday, Luoma said in an email.
She described Thompson’s initiative as a great example of how students can make a positive difference at school, in their community and in the world.
“As educators we are teaching children to be compassionate, kind and thoughtful human beings,” she said. “Teaching children that they can make a difference in the lives of other people at their age can be empowering and teach such valuable lessons on humanity.”
By Friday, the 22nd day of his polar bear swim campaign, Thompson said he’d raised more than $18,000. He was glad to have the company on his swim.
“It felt good,” he said. “I wasn’t the only one today.”
You can donate through GoFundMe, or through a bank account set up under the name “Sylas Swims” – account number 754364 – at the Discovery Harbour branch of Coastal Community Credit Union. You can also follow his progress on his Facebook page, Sylas swims everyday until he reaches 30k, and on his YouTube channel.
Thompson is following in the footsteps of his late uncle “Polar Bear” Jake Hebenton, who previously raised funds by swimming off Tyee Spit in the early 2000s. After Hebenton’s death in 2011, his cousin Eddy Cliffe launched another polar bear swim campaign at the same spot.