Loading articles...

Fishermen take chilly challenge to raise money for Nova Scotia fire victims

Last Updated Jan 21, 2018 at 5:40 pm PDT

Fisherman Todd Newell takes the inaugural plunge for the "Live Well Challenge" on a fishing boat near Cape Sable Island, N.S., on Jan. 16, 2018 in this handout photo. Dozens of fishermen are plunging into frigid waters as part of a fundraising campaign in part to help the survivors of a tragic fire that claimed the lives of four children in southern Nova Scotia earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Holden Nickerson *MANDATORY CREDIT*

PUBNICO HEAD, N.S. – Dozens of fishermen are plunging into frigid waters as part of a fundraising campaign, with some donations going to the survivors of a tragic fire in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Todd Newell, a fisherman in Cape Sable Island, N.S., said he wanted to help the families of four children who died in a house fire in the nearby community of Pubnico Head earlier this month, so he decided to launch what he described as a regional take on the ALS ice-bucket challenge.

Newell pledged to donate $1,000 to efforts supporting the family last week, before immersing himself in the bone-chilling water in his boat’s lobster holding tank, also known as a live well.

He posted a video of the chilly dip to Facebook and challenged three friends to do the same, and in a matter of days, the so-called “Live Well Challenge” took off on social media.

“It’s a fishing community, and it’s just very fitting for the area we live in,” said Newell. “I was hoping to raise $100,000 for charities, and I was certain that it would because I just know the people in this area. I know how they come together in times of need.”

Wanda Joy Atkinson, who administers a Facebook page for the challenge, says more than 150 people from nearly every wharf in Nova Scotia and beyond have taken part, pledging in excess of $150,000 to various charitable causes.

Videos show challengers plopping into icy water one after the other, leaping off their boats into the ocean, and at least one lobster fisherman emerging from a tank with a recovered crustacean in hand.

Some landbound participants have also come up with creative ways to drench themselves for a good cause.

One lobster fisherman who works part-time in Alberta re-created the challenge by putting on a captain’s hat and falling backwards into a water-filled horse trough.

Another challenger donned goggles and a snorkel as he danced into a candle-lit bubble bath.

Atkinson said social media users have shared their interpretations of the challenge at such a rapid rate that Facebook has temporarily blocked them from uploading videos.

Newell said he thinks the challenge has caught on in part because it gives fishermen an excuse for some professional ribbing.

“I called in a couple close friends of mine and I made it pretty clear to them that if they didn’t do it, they would never hear the end of it,” he said. “That was part of the fun.”

Newell said he heard that the challenge has spread as far away as Maine. While he thinks the campaign could go global, he said its success is ultimately a testament to the generosity of the tight-knit fishing communities on Nova Scotia’s southwestern shore, which are still reeling from the fire in Pubnico Head about two weeks ago.

“It’s very hard to explain unless you live here,” he said. “Especially in a time of tragedy, they just really seem to come together.”

A funeral service was set to be held for seven-year-old Mya Prouty in Barrington on Sunday, and a celebration of life for seven-year-old Mason Grant was scheduled for Monday in Yarmouth.

A joint funeral service is being held Tuesday at the Yarmouth Wesleyan Church for four-month-old Winston Prouty and his four-year-old sister, Jayla Kennedy.