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Crandall Lions Club team members dive into the 26-degree Deam Lake near Borden Saturday morning for the second annual Southeastern Indiana Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics. (Photos by Chris Adams)

Brrr! 195 plunge for Special Olympics

Cast of characters brave 26-degree water to raise $43,000

February 25, 2009
Penguins didn't waddle, but they did tiptoe, while others, including an alarming number of men in grass skirts and coconut tops, showed no hesitation as they plunged into the below-freezing water of Deam Lake near Borden Saturday morning to raise more than $43,000 for the Special Olympics.

The second annual Southeastern Indiana Polar Plunge met the goal of organizers and easily surpassed last year's total raised for the 13-county Special Olympics Area 2 by some $10,000, "and we're still counting," Evelyn McPherson, chair of the Harrison-Crawford-Washington Special Olympics Polar Plunge campaign, said.

Luke Nail, 7, of Pekin and Dave Jerrell of Sellersburg, dressed as a priest, catch their breath while coming out of the lake.
In meeting that goal, 195 people — and at least one dog — braved the lake's 26-degree water. That is up from 124 last year, when the Area 2 plunge, despite being in its first year, was the second largest in the state.

"I'm just really excited about the participation and the support we get," McPherson said, noting about 40 of the participants were from this area.

She pointed to First Harrison Bank, which not only was a VIP sponsor, but also organized a team and a group of parents of athletes who raised more than $2,000.

Last year's event made it possible for the Harrison-Crawford-Washington program, which includes 110 athletes, to buy new uniforms for three basketball teams, McPherson said. It also provided funding for athlete fees, transportation to events and housing while participating at the events, she added.

Before hosting a Polar Plunge, Area 2 focused on several small fundraisers to keep the programs afloat, McPherson said. Now, "instead of doing a lot of little fundraisers," it can focus on one large fundraiser, she said.

Despite barely missing the rain and snow that came through the area in the early afternoon, the plunge, which kicked off a little after 11 a.m., lived up to its "polar" name much more than last year's event, held at Buffalo Trace Park near Palmyra.

A year ago, the sun shined, warming the water temperature to 38 degrees. On Saturday, Deam Lake's 26-degree water, at only 12 degrees cooler, may not have seemed that much of a difference, but the body language and comments of plungers as they emerged from the water, after making their way out far enough in the lake to high-five members of the Indiana State Police Dive Team, indicated it was indeed.

"That was cold!" "Brrr!" and "I'll never do that again!" were accompanied by smiles and quick runs to a nearby warming tent.

To keep the plungers and the couple of hundred people who came to cheer them warm and fired up before and during the plunge, Louisville radio personalities Jill Farney and Matt Ryan again served as hosts.

Boy Scout Troop 412 of Corydon, which includes McPherson's son, Eric, an Eagle Scout, again presented the colors during the National Anthem, before plunging themselves, while Susan Wheatley, one-half of the plunging penguins from the Catholic Community of Jeffersonville, gave the benediction.

After drying off and changing clothes, plungers and supporters made their way to the After Splash Bash at The Center at Providence Retirement Home in New Albany, where hot food and drinks were served free to plungers and for $5 for all others.

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