Prides of White Rock to disband

Tens of thousands are estimated to have taken part over the years in White Rock’s icy New Year’s Day tradition, the Polar Bear Swim. - File
Tens of thousands are estimated to have taken part over the years in White Rock’s icy New Year’s Day tradition, the Polar Bear Swim.
— image credit: File

Two service clubs with decades of history on the Semiahmoo Peninsula are folding.

Effective June 30, the Peace Arch Monarch Lions and the White Rock Lioness clubs will cease to exist, officials say.

And the decision – made April 17 – was not unanticipated.

“It was disheartening and disappointing, but not surprising,” club secretary Kyle McKay told Peace Arch News Tuesday.

McKay said both clubs have been struggling for some time to keep a full roster of active members. But despite efforts, the numbers have only continued to decline.

Four months ago, Monarch membership was down to just 14, with at least four over the age of 90. Since then, one member has moved and two others have suffered health problems, McKay said.

The Lionesses are down to about 12 members.

Attracting new members has been a challenge for years, she said.

In addition to the loss of fundraising dollars for numerous South Surrey and White Rock charities – the two clubs have donated nearly $1 million since 1986 – the disbandment may put a popular White Rock tradition on ice.

For 44 years, the Lions have hosted the White Rock Polar Bear Swim each New Year’s Day. Doubt as to the event’s future was raised in December, with organizers citing the 2012 death of event chair, Don Miller, and limited membership as key reasons it may not continue.

The 2014 new year’s dip was saved by a last-minute push and support from city staffers. Around 700 hardy souls took part; an estimated 2,000 turned out to watch; and $1,100 was raised for the community.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said at the time that he hoped another community group would step up to take over the swim.

Amy Baumann, special-events co-ordinator for White Rock, said Tuesday that the city will search for a new host for the swim.

“We definitely want to carry on the tradition,” Baumann said by email.

“We have been incredibly fortunate to have a group such as the Peace Arch Monarch Lions Club host this popular community event.”

Both of the Lions clubs were chartered in 1986, with several members hailing from the White Rock Lions Club, which closed its doors that same year.

Members’ efforts since have benefited a plethora of community causes, including Peace Arch Hospital, Kent Street Seniors’ Centre, Sources’ White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank, scholarships and more.

Other charity events championed by the Lions include the annual Father’s Day Breakfast held at the Crescent Beach Royal Canadian Legion, hot dog sales, food bank drives and a Christmas effort that delivers bags of essentials to the homeless.

A weekly meat draw held Saturdays at Sawbuck’s Pub will continue until the end of May, McKay said.

McKay said the clubs’ fundraising efforts would not have been as successful without the support of the public.

“We would like to thank the community for all the support they have given over the years,” she said. “Without your attendance at our various fundraising events, we would not have been able to live up to our motto of ‘We serve’.”


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