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Polar Dip into Lake Erie raises nearly $100,000 for families navigating childhood cancer

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It’s one of ChildCan’s signature events.

Each year, hundreds of people strip down to their bathing suits, and take a dip into Lake Erie in Port Stanley, Ont. to raise funds for the important organization.

“Our circle of community comes together,” said Suzanne Fratschko Elliott, ChildCan Executive Director. “They do a lot of peer-to-peer fundraising to support the work of the organization, which ultimately helps our kids and families that are navigating a childhood cancer diagnosis.”

Families like the Swartzentruber’s.

“Micah was diagnosed with a brain tumor about two and a half years ago,” said Ashley Swartzentruber. “Then when he woke up, he didn't really respond. He couldn't eat, move, walk or talk and that was really difficult. We went through radiation chemotherapy and rehabilitation and now today he can ride his bike, he is playing Lego again and eating all his favorite foods.”

The Swartzentruber family from left to right, Ashley, Micah, 8, Sam, and Anna, 5, were the ChildCan spokespeople for the 2024 Polar Dip on March 2, 2024. Micah was diagnosed with a brain tumour two years ago. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)Micah, 8, said he loves riding his bike, playing Lego, listening to music, and “being adventurous.”

Micah’s speech is slowly coming along as well. He has a hard time with balance and just got a hearing aid.

Doctors have told his parents they are amazed at how quickly he is recovering.

“I think that was the hardest thing, that he wasn't able to be a kid,” said Ashley.

She continued, “He was just laying in a hospital bed. I was worried he would never be able to play Lego because his fine motor skills. I was worried he [would] never be able to talk again. I was worried he couldn't walk. I was worried he wouldn't be able to eat. There was so much, but we made it through.”

48 teams plunged into Lake Erie near Port Stanley to raise money for ChildCan at their annual Polar Dip on March 2, 2024. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)Now that Micah’s two years out of treatment, his family was among the record 48 teams taking the plunge into Lake Erie.

Unlike previous years where the water was icy and frigid, and the temperatures well below freezing, this year it was in the double-digit.

Dressed like a mermaid, Childcan’s executive director even took the plunge.

“I am way out of my comfort zone,” said Fratschko Elliott. “I keep saying, ‘If what our kids go through in treatment, they can handle that, I can handle a little bit of cold water.’”

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