CampaignsBreaking the Ice: Our Recap of Brainfreeze 2019

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Tim, Jennifer and Emily at Brainfreeze 2020
By Tim Brandl 

“The water looks freeeeezing!”

Sub-zero temperatures don’t normally scream a "casual day at the beach", but here stood Jennifer, Emily and I nevetheless: On the sandy shores of Woodbine Beach, in the middle of November, staring into the cold lake waters before us.

The three of us were there for Brainfreeze, a polar bear dip fundraiser for youth mental health.

And in moments, we’d be jumping in that freezing cold water.

In Canada, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 24 (Source: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2019).

Brainfreeze: Polar Bear Dip for Youth Mental Health started as an idea two transformative organizations, and Surf the Greats, had to bring attention to this problem. The thinking was simple: Bring two communities together for a courageous, collective act that breaks the proverbial ice on the youth mental health.

The first event kicked off in 2017 with eighty passionate polar bears and raised $18,000.00 – an impressive feat by any calculation.

In the years since, though, the Brainfreeze community has swelled into a truly national demonstration.

Indeed, by the time the three of us found ourselves on the shores of Lake Ontario in November 2019, we were among 550 other participants and 90 teams, spanning six Canadian cities (Halifax, Montreal, Collingwood, Toronto, Victoria and Vancouver), who had signed up to fundraise and take the plunge.

Dippers smashed through the fundraising precedents set in previous years, too. In 2019, the event started with a fundraising goal of $50,000, and polar bears were encouraged to set up personal fundraising pages or team fundraising pages on our Peer-to-Peer Fundraising module to collect donations. Two weeks ahead of the event, participants and teams had had already hit and surpassed this mark, encouraging organizers from to increase their target another $20,000.

The new goal wasn’t high enough.

Not only did participants meet the $70,000 days later -- they more than doubled it, raising a total of $150,314.50!

The incredible wave of support for Brainfreeze speaks to the growing recognition of youth mental health in Canada, and the vital movement that has helped mobilize through initiatives, like Brainfreeze, to help address it. is the only Canadian charity that trains and empowers young leaders to revolutionize mental health in every province and territory. All of the donations that participants collected go towards helping the youth mental health leaders at meeting this challenge by delivering educational Jack Talks, develop game-changing resources and advocating for effective policies that help young people.

At the same time, a huge part of making’s vision a reality is attitudinal. We need to look after each other, and recognize when someone is having problems. And when someone does have the courage to speak up, we need to know how to respond. This is within all of us.

What made the Brainfreeze experience so unique was that the spirit of inclusivity needed to help create this positive shift was in the air (no matter how cold that air was). From the spirited emails organizers sent encouraging fundraising to the care swimmers showed each other getting out of the water to the conversations amongst at post-event social, bonds had formed amongst family, colleagues, friends and even some new friends.
So, as was stood there, on the beach – shivering -- the three of us were part of more than just a fundraiser, we were there a part of a community. And that was worth freezing forth.

“Let’s dive in.”

To be notified of Brainfreeze 2020 registration, visit:


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