A steady rain ensured participants in the 12th annual Polar Bear Plunge at Bald Eagle State Park were wet before they took a dip in the cold waters of Sayers Lake on Saturday.
“It’s the first time we ever had rain for the Polar Bear Plunge, so we’ll have to see if that makes it better or worse,” Theresa Mast, development director of the YMCA of Centre County, said.
There were 110 preregistered participants this year and the event raised more than $43,000 through donations and sponsors, Mast said. Proceeds from participation helps fund the YMCA‘s Open Doors Program, which assists people who might not have much money with memberships and services like child care.
Many participants were there in costume. People dressed as a banana, vikings and a polar bear were present. Others wore next to nothing.
Theme-based costumes were common for groups. Members of the Women’s Adventure Club of Centre County came dressed as Snow White and the Seven Plunging Fools. Each carried a plunger and a shirt emblazoned with a name, like “soul fool” or “delight fool.” Members of the group’s “men’s auxiliary” also participated. Rod Stahl, of Boalsburg, was Snow White.
Member Lisa Wandel thought of the play on the Disney characters. They usually have eight people and she thought it would be fun.
“Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to plunge we go,” she said.
Lorna Arocena, of State College, had another theory.
“Because we’re fools for plunging in the cold,” she said.
The proximity to the holiday season was also evident and some costumes had a yuletide flair. Lauren Davidson and Cody McClure, of Bellefonte, were at the event for the first time. Davidson wore reindeer antlers and McClure, who was awarded best individual costume, was dressed as Santa Claus. The sleeves and a portion of the bottom were cut off his red robe.
“This is Santa’s bathing suit,” he said.
A group of children, called “little dippers” also participated. Zoey Steiner, 9, of Pleasant Gap, made the plunge for the first time Saturday. She said she would do it again next year but might change her mind. She was certain of one thing.
“It was very cold,” she said.
Her father, Jeff, has taken part every year since the event’s inception. Two things keep him coming back, he said. He has been a member of the YMCA for years and likes supporting the organization.
“It’s also my annual winterization program,” he said. “Once you plunge, the rest of the winter isn’t too bad.”
After the getting out of the water and warming up a bit, McClure and Davidson said they’d consider taking the plunge again. Davidson said it was fun and the frigid water wasn’t that bad, and is for a good cause.
“A lot of families can’t afford programs the Y offers and to support after school programs there is important,” she said.
The sentiment was echoed by Sarah Pendergrass, one of the plunging fools and another first timer. She’ll be back because it funds programs that benefit the community.
“It was extremely cold, but I was running in with the best people ever,” she said.