The water temperature in Lake Anne registered a refreshing 41 degrees the day the Virginia Polar Dip returned to Reston. "The lake isn't frozen this year," said Gail Toth, event founder and coordinator. "So there's no cutting through with a chainsaw. It's actually a balmy day compared to some of the years we've had (the event)," she said.
Toth is the founder and organizer of the Virginia Polar Dip. Funds raised help support Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine, which is "near and dear" to Toth and her family. Twenty-three years ago, when Toth's daughter Jennifer was a cancer patient at age three, they attended the camp located on Sebago Lake, 30 miles from Portland, as a participant family. "We had an amazing time with other families going through the same things we were. We've returned every summer as volunteers. Now, we also fundraise so other families can experience the program. This is our 12th year," Toth said.
According to Toth, her campaign goal for the 2020 Virginia Polar Dip was $100,000. That would send 40 local families who had a child with a life-threatening illness to Camp Sunshine. Each participant in the Polar Dip had been asked to raise/donate a minimum of $100. As of Feb. 1, the online Progress Roll showed $46,474. However, donations would be accepted until the end of February.
Announcer Andy Sigle took the microphone. He thanked everyone for their kindness and generosity. He said that since the event first began but not including this year, 1,806 individuals had participated and raised more than $760,000.
Cancer survivor Jennifer Toth is now an adult. On the afternoon of the 2020 Virginia Polar Dip, she stood on the Lake Anne Plaza dock surrounded by hundreds of spectators, volunteers and approximately 150 individuals willing to do a little "Freezin' for a Reason." Chicken Dippers, children who would sit on the dock and stick their feet in the water, huddled with family members. Polar Dippers, those who would take the plunge, hopped up and down to keep warm. Meanwhile, members of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Cold Water Dive Team treaded water close the jump-off and ladders, ready to help anyone who needed it.
"This cause is close to my heart both as someone who attended Camp Sunshine and as a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner whose patients benefit from the program," said Jennifer Toth. "Thank you to everyone in the community who has embraced this event and made it such a big success. We plan to keep this event going. Our goal is to have the VA Polar Dip raise over $1 million," she said.
Sponsors for the 2020 Virginia Polar Dip put together a family-friendly event with activities for children and music from Danny DJ. Sponsors included Kalypso's Sports Tavern, David Madison Photography, Lake Anne Village Center, Reston Community Center, Salon Khouri, Ourisman Chantilly Toyota, Reston Association, Fairfax County Cold Water Dive Team, Manor Works Painting, Loebig Chiropractic & Rehab, and Onelife Fitness.