The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

February 28, 2010

Brrrrraving LAKE ERIE

Hundreds descend on Geneva State Park to take a dip for Special Olympics

GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE — Hundreds of crazy people stripped down to bikinis, gym shorts and Austrian outfits Saturday afternoon to take a quick dip in Lake Erie.

More than 400 people participated in the 14th Annual Law Enforcement Polar Bear Plunge at Geneva State Park as the snow flew. The event is a major fundraiser for Special Olympics.

Hundreds of people also came to witness and photograph the event, stationing themselves near the beach parking area or on ice blocks surrounding the swimming area.

The swimming area was chiseled from the ice by heavy machinery. Rescue workers in body suits formed an arc around the back of the man-made pond to insure the participants safety.

The high school division went first at noon as more than 150 high school students from Edgewood, Mentor, Lakeside, Geneva, Jefferson, Conneaut, Madison, Perry and SS. John and Paul sprinted through the water trying to get back into the warm tent as soon as possible.

Some young folks also took their time slapping high fives with water rescue personnel before leaving the water.

“It’s a really great turnout. We had four new schools,” said Chandra Brode, who helped organize the plunge with Sharon Bradley. She said Geneva had the most students participating with 40.

Matt Warner, a student at Lakeside, raised the most money of any high school student with a total of $402. He said his strategy was to ask everyone he knew for a donation.

The high school portion of the event raised $9,000 and total cash donations totaled approximately $90,000, Brode said. She said the totals are just a bit under last year’s donations, but it is understandable with the state of the economy.

“It’s a huge event. We work on this all year,” Brode said of the plunge that includes law enforcement people from all over the state. “We have a group from Cincinnati,” she said.

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