By Shawn Ryan
---- — PLATTSBURGH — In weather befitting its name, the third-annual Polar Plunge drew in more than 200 participants Saturday.
At the stroke of noon, with temperatures hovering near freezing, the hearty polar bears stormed across the sand of Plattsburgh City Beach and into the frigid waters of Lake Champlain. Some took the plunge in costume, others in bathing suits, while still others ran through the water fully clothed.
With police divers and paramedics looking on, the hollering pack ran around a set of pylons through thigh-deep water, and then made their way back up to the beach shivering, in search of towels.
A few brave souls even dove into the 52-degree water during one of the many fundraisers for the Special Olympics.
“I think it went really well,” said Erin McCartan, Development Specialist for Special Olympics of New York. “This year it seemed like it was a lot of fun, with all the entertainment we had going on throughout the day, and the plunge went smoothly.”
New York Special Olympics is the largest Special Olympics chapter in the country, and the sixth-largest chapter in the world.
To the plungers, even the recent arrival of cold weather was a positive.
“Overall it was great weather; it was a perfect day for a plunge. We’re really happy with the turnout we had. We’re really grateful to everybody who came here to help support our athlete,” McCartan said.
“I feel good, I’m fine,” said Nicole Rejment, from Effort, Pa., as she stood shivering after coming out of the water. “It was for a good cause. We’re from the graduate speech program at SUNY Plattsburgh. It was a nice break from grad school.”
Rejment jokingly cited peer pressure as one of her motivators for taking part in the plunge.
“I thought it was really cold, I don’t know what she’s talking about,” countered fellow grad student Katy Fitzgerald, from Mount Kisco, N.Y.
“It was mind numbing,” added Fitzgerald with a laugh.
Both were all smiles as they headed toward the parking lot and back to school.
For off-duty State Trooper Shawn Davies, who took part in the plunge along with a large contingent of law enforcement officers from numerous agencies, it was worth being cold to support Special Olympics.
“We (law enforcement) always support the Special Olympics. We also do the torch run. It’s for a good cause,” Davies said. “But I’d rather do the torch run.”