November 19, 2013 | 03:29 PMOn Dec. 7, hundreds of charitable water-Sports enthusiasts will gather on the frigid shores of Geneva Lake for the fifth-annual Freeze for Life event, a scholarship and pancreatic cancer research fundraiser.
Each year, people swarm the lakeshore donning dry-suits, board-shorts and even speedos to do some cold-weather water-skiing and wakeboarding, Freeze for Life founder Dalton Waldeck said. And the number of participants is growing.
Since the fundraiser began in 2008, more than $50,000 has been raised and crowd sizes have more than doubled.
In the event’s first year, Waldeck said between 200 and 300 people came. This year, he anticipates more than 1,000.
“Everybody in the community jumped aboard,” Waldeck said of the events’ success dating back to 2008. “I had everybody from aldermen to school teachers and principals ... participating.”
Waldeck started the event in 2008, after his father, Kevin, died of pancreatic cancer.
Kevin was a school teacher for more than 37 years, Waldeck said, and had a passion for both education and the water.
“So I decided that, after his death, I was going to create a scholarship and give some money back to the pancreatic Lustgarten Foundation,” Waldeck said.
The Lustgarten Foundation funds pancreatic cancer research and awareness efforts.
Freeze for Life donations are not only used to fund cancer research but are also given to local students in the form of college academic scholarships.
But this year’s Freeze for Life will be different in a big way, Waldeck said. His former employer, Gage Marine and current employer The Boat House in Elkhorn are two rivals in the boat tours and sales industry, but the companies will set aside their differences on Dec. 7 to help out with the event.
“The great thing is two big companies coming together,” Waldeck said. “We all decided, hey, let’s take our gloves off and lets just do something for a great cause.”
Though participants will be skiing and boarding in water that’s around 37 degrees, Waldeck said, he wanted to hold the charity event in the winter to give it a special appeal.
“If everyone was here in the summer to do this, it would be no big deal,” he said. Because the water is cold enough to induce hypothermia in around 15 minutes, medical staff and rescue workers will be on standby.
And there will be a hot tub on the beach so participants can warm up after their turn on the waves.
While hundreds show up every year, Waldeck said he can only take 150 people skiing.
“Because there are so many spectators, there’s only so many people I can pull in that period of time,” Waldeck said. Inexperienced skiers and the cold weather can slow things down, and with only two boats pulling participants, he said 150 is the cutoff.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be entertainment for everyone. During the last hour of the event, members of local water ski teams, the Aquanuts from Twin Lakes and the Muskego Waterbugs, will make an appearance
“We’re bringing in a jump and people from local ski teams have all signed up,” Waldeck said. “I’m going to make it a little bit more of a show.”
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 7 at Pier 290 Restaurant in Williams Bay.