There were ducklings in Lake Arthur on Saturday afternoon along with crayons, construction workers, a shark and the Tooth Fairy. 

Oh, my.

No, it wasn’t a Halloween parade, but the Lawrence County Habitat for Humanity’s 10th annual Douse for a House Winter Plunge at Pleasant Valley Beach in Moraine State Park.

A total of 86 brave plungers took a long walk down a red carpeted path into the frigid water in front of family and friends and under the watchful eye of diving professions. The event, the Habitat chapter’s largest fundraiser of the year, raised more than $24,000. All of that money will stay in Lawrence County to help the organization build new homes for families. 

“We definitely made more money than we made last year,” Lawrence County Habitat for Humanity Director Erin Brand said. “We had several team sponsors come out for our event along with our leveled sponsorships. All the money is going to stay here in Lawrence County to go toward three home builds that we are currently building. We plan to award three families with homes in 2020 with Lawrence County Habitat for Humanity.”

Because it was the 10th year, the organization tried to add some new aspects in honor of its anniversary.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Brand, still cold from her own plunge. “We just wanted to big this year since it was our 10th and overall, I think it was a great success.”

Planners expanded its sponsorship levels to include Frozen ($1,000 and up), Frigid ($400) and Friend ($200). The Almira Foundation and 2 Reluctant Plungers were both top Frozen contributors, while the VFW Post 315 in New Castle was a top Frigid sponsor. Ken Shiderly Construction donated $8,000 as a gift in kind. 

“We tried to up our sponsorships,” Brand said. “In the past, the sponsorships were just one to two types of sponsorships. We really worked on trying to get individuals to get in-kind donations. We wanted to make sure that we had this as a red-carpet event just to show it was our anniversary and to do it up a little bit and have a good spirit about it.”

With songs like “Ice, Ice, Baby” and songs with lines mentioning the ice cold, the plungers bravely walked into the cold water. The 86 going into the water included 22 who signed up for the task that day. It is also an increase of 19 since last year’s 67, a number that doubled from those participating in 2018. About 93 went into the water for the inaugural event in 2010.

Carl Sacalrich is a county Habitat executive committee member. He also organizes the group of amateur HAM radio operators to help coordinate the safety aspect of Saturday’s event.

“Our homes are not given free,” Sacalrich said. “A homeowner has to pay a monthly mortgage interest-free. That’s a lot of people who could not possibly qualify for a bank loan and therefore never own a home can qualify for Habitat because we aim for the people who fall in the cracks.”

He said one home was given to a woman who had never cut her own grass because she never had a yard.

“We gave her a lawnmower as a house-warming gift,” Sacalrich said. 

Awards were given prior to the plunge for best costumes. New Castle dentist Gary R. Snow, a long-time sponsor of the event but only in his second year going into the water, won the best costume prize for his Tooth Fairy outfit. Snow repeated as individual costume champion. Last year, he wore an antique diver’s helmet into the water.

The VFW Post 315 won the team prize for its members dressed as ducks. The club last year came in second in the team costume competition when it sent 10 sharks into the water. The Butler County water rescue team patrolled the waters keeping things safe.

Digital editor

Pete Sirianni is the News' digital editor. Previously, he worked at The Bradford (Pa.) Era. Sirianni is a 2016 IUP graduate, earning a degree in journalism and public relations. Contact him at or on Twitter at @PeterSirianni.

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