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Shelburne teen takes polar plunge, raises funds for friend’s trip to Kenya

The sun was shining, and it was a balmy 1 degree Celsius along the Shelburne waterfront at 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Conditions were perfect for a scenic stroll along Dock Street.

Except that a stroll was not what 15-year-old J.T. Urquhart had in mind.

As he tossed rocks into the water along the shoreline to break up the ice, Urquhart was bracing himself for the polar plunge he was about to take.

This wasn’t just an idea to do something a little wild and crazy on New Year’s Eve. Urquhart was doing this to raise money for his friend, Maya Trevors, who is part of a Shelburne County Me to We group travelling to Nairobi, Kenya, in March to build a school and water stations.

Maya and her entire family had gathered on the waterfront, along with other friends and family members, to cheer Urquhart on.

Urquhart, who had never done a polar plunge before, had no idea what to expect, except the obvious: that it would be bitterly cold. And he had no real advance plan … except to just jump in.

As he stripped down to his shorts, friends and family members coached him on breathing techniques, to prepare for when he hit the water. Then he looped a safety rope around his waist and stared out.

As well-wishers counted down, Urquhart took a running leap off Shelburne’s town dock, landed with a splash in the frigid water, then clambered back up the ladder and was swiftly bundled in towels, blankets and dry clothes.

It was all over in seconds, but the ordeal undoubtedly felt much longer to Urquhart.

The inspiration to do a polar plunge as a fundraiser came from Urquhart’s mother, Colleen McCann. “Mom came up with the idea,” he explained. “It was just a thought to her, but I just took it seriously.”

Urquhart raised more than $400 in donations for Maya’s trip.

Maya was grateful for Urquhart’s support. “It’s really awesome that he wants to do something like this for me,” she said afterward, standing next to her shivering friend.

Maya’s father, Ed Trevors, an Anglican priest at Shelburne’s Christ Church, praised Urquhart for enduring such extreme conditions to raise money for Maya’s trip. “(J.T. and Maya) have been friends for years through our church youth group, but I was amazed by his kindness and generosity.”

For Urquhart, who has been a youth leader with the Anglican youth group since he was in Grade 7, his polar plunge seemed like the right thing to do. “I just thought it would be helpful,” he admitted. An understatement, to say the least.

More fundraisers are planned in the New Year.

Shelburne’s Anglican Church Hall will be hosting a silent auction, music and food from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 27. The auction features prizes donated by local businesses, and music will be performed by Denis Leger. There is no admission. People wanting to place bids can buy an envelope with 10 tickets for $5, then place their tickets in a bag for the prize they want.

All proceeds will go to Maya’s trip to Kenya.

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