Sylas Thompson, 11, on Tyee Spit in Campbell River after a polar bear swim in late January. Black Press file photo

Young polar bear swimmer raises $30,000 for North Island anti-poverty groups

Sylas Thompson, 11, has been swimming daily amid record-breaking cold temperatures

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

Thompson has been jumping into the icy water daily since Feb. 1, mostly at Tyee Spit in Campbell River. He announced his 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.

Dozens of individuals, businesses and other groups donated, 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 two Campbell River groups, 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.

Sylas 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.

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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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