Sam Luptak Jr.
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
The temperature was 22 degrees. A cold wind blew across the frozen surface of Lake Arthur, while a winter sun darted in and out of gray clouds.
Yet large crowds gathered at the edge of the ice, and on the signal, they all jumped into the lake.
It was the fourth annual Habitat for Humanity Douse for a House Polar Plunge. It was all to raise money for Habitat’s ongoing mission to provide houses for those without a place to live in Lawrence County.
This year’s Polar Plunge was the biggest yet. At least 75 jumpers made the plunge into the Moraine State Park’s ice-covered waters — so many, in fact, that plungers had to take their dives in shifts.
Part of the reason for that, explained event chairman Sherree Cunningham, was that the area of ice removal for the plunge was smaller this year than in years past. Recent prolonged blasts of single-digit and sub-zero temperatures made the ice extra thick, making exposing the water below more difficult.
Park manager Dustin Drew confirmed that workers faced a tough challenge in creating the hole for plungers to take their dives this year.
“This is the thickest ice we’ve had in all four years of this event,” he explained “It is about 12 inches everywhere on the lake.”
Drew said workers were out early Saturday morning with chainsaws. They cut through the ice in approximately 4-foot-by-4-foot blocks, then brought a backhoe out onto the ice and pulled the blocks from the water.
“It took a lot of effort this year, but we kept at it until we got it,” he said.
About 75 jumpers, including six corporate teams, made the plunge in two shifts. The event, which requires plungers to raise money by getting sponsors, is the one of the major fundraisers of the year for Habitat for Humanity. It raises approximately $25,000 each year.
Cunningham said that her biggest disappointment this year was that she would not be able to join the plungers in jumping into the lake. She was injured earlier this year in a fall on the ski slopes, and is still getting around with the assistance of crutches. Her doctor said, “absolutely not” to her participating in this year’s plunge. She promises that she will be back in the water next year.
Still, Cunningham was happy with the turnout Saturday. She had worried that the frigid weather — the coldest yet for the event — would scare some folks away, but bravery trumped cold for the plungers.
“They call this event the Polar Plunge” Cunningham said. “This year they definitely got the polar.”