A group of Toronto residents have raised more than $6,000 so far during their 100-day cold plunge challenge to help families keep their heat on this winter.
Restaurant manager Hassan Haidar, 29, created the hydro fundraiser with his three friends after noticing there were no charities available for residents who are struggling to pay their hydro bills, as the cost of living has been soaring in the city.
“Energy costs are going up. A lot of post pandemic pressures. So, I kind of just came up with this idea to try to help people. The hydro bills, I had researched for charities that do that and there was no specific charity that did that,” Haidar told Now Toronto.
Haidar added that many take for granted having 24/7 access to heat and he wanted to raise awareness about how critical this basic necessity is.
“I’m only cold when I deliberately want to be cold and I never have to worry about it otherwise, right. So, I get cold and I get into a warm car, I get to a warm house, I go to warm work. And then there’s people who, they come to the point where they’re either going to choose between having groceries for the week, or if they’re going to have the heat on in their house,” he said.
Stay Unbounded, a brand that specializes in primal therapy experiences and education, decided to sponsor Haidar’s campaign, and The Canadian Training Institute is partnering with him to distribute the funds in $500 grants.
The rules are simple. Haidar and his friends must get cold exposure everyday by being submerged in icy water up to their chest for at least two minutes.
“So, for most of us that was pretty much going to the lake every single day. There were some days where you know, some of us might have done a bathtub if we were out of town.”
The 100-day hydro fundraiser started On Dec. 10 2022 and is set to end on March 19. For the last plunge, the team plans on doing a sunset dip at Humber Bay as a celebratory end to the campaign.
Haidar says the campaign has definitely been difficult, but also rewarding for his mental health.
“It’s been really challenging. Just sticking to a routine making sure I’m up at appropriate times so I can get to the lake in the day time. Obviously, the shock of getting into the cold every morning was a challenge, then warming up afterwards makes the rest of your routine a little more difficult,” he said.
“But in terms of mental health benefits, I’ve seen drastic improvement in mood, drastic improvement in mental resilience. A much deeper connection into my physiology, like understanding where stress is manifesting in my body,” he added.
As of Monday, Haidar and his team have raised $6,200 for the campaign.
Once the fundraiser is over, proceeds will be given to the Canadian Training Institute, which will give out the grants to internal applicants.
Haidar says he hopes to do the campaign again to help more families in need.
“We are definitely planning to make this a fundraiser a little more official for the next coming around. Get more people to jump on the train. Giving people the option to do 10 days and raise money for 10 days, or raise money for 30 days or whatever it is that they feel called to do.”