Sylas Thompson, 11, on Tyee Spit after a polar bear swim on Jan. 24, 2019. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Vancouver Island boy braves ocean chill to raise $30,000 for the poor

Polar bear swimmer Sylas Thompson attains goal for Campbell River anti-poverty groups

Polar bear swimmer Sylas Thompson, 11, has raised $30,000 for two local community groups fighting poverty.

Thompson has been jumping into the icy water daily since Feb. 1, mostly at Tyee Spit in Campbell River. He announced the achievement in a video posted to Facebook on Monday.

“I’ve reached my goal of $30,000,” he said, adding that he’s thinking of doing a similar campaign in the future.

“I might be going up and down the Island, and every hour or so of driving, just do a dip,” he said.

Sheryl Thompson, Sylas’s grandmother, said the last swim of his campaign will be on Friday. The final amount raised will be announced towards the end of the month, she said.

In total, Sylas will have swam for 36 consecutive days. It was an especially cold period, with low temperatures in Campbell River breaking records dating back to 1958 on Feb. 10 (-13 C), Feb. 11 (-15.5 C), Feb. 26 (-10 C) and Feb. 27 (-10 C), according to Environment Canada.

Readers can still 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.

Dozens of individuals, businesses and other groups donated through GoFundMe, while others showed their support by jumping in the water, including a group of Grade 5 students.

VIDEO: Brr! Campbell River boy to plunge into icy waters daily for charity

VIDEO: Sylas Thompson’s polar bear swims continue amid cold and snow in Campbell River

VIDEO: Campbell River students join Sylas Thompson’s polar bear swim campaign

The funds are being split between Grassroots Kind Hearts and the Women’s Resource Centre.

The Women’s Resource Centre’s services include a poverty relief program, which provides essentials like personal hygiene products, clothing and linens.

Grassroots Kind Hearts provides services including a daily hot meal to homeless people and others struggling with poverty. The founder of Grassroots Kind Hearts, Krisandra Rufus, was also in the news last week asking for support from the community after her daughter was diagnosed with a spinal infection.

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.


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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Update: A previous version of this article stated that Sylas Thompson’s last swim would be on Thursday. It’s now scheduled for Friday, according to Sheryl Thompson, Sylas’ grandmother.

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