Thousands ready to take the plunge

Dec 3, 2016

It’s that time for people to brave the elements and jump into frigid lake water.

The 10th annual Polar Plunge takes place today at Woodlawn Beach. The event will be hosted by Special Olympics New York with nearly 1,500 Western New Yorkers expected to participate. Registration is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a $50 fee. The plunge itself will take place at 2 p.m. Many may see people jumping into the cold waters of Lake Erie and think those people are crazy. SONY director of development Erica Raepple disagrees.

Credit WBFO File Photo / WBFO News

“Well they’re freezin’ for a reason. It’s all for a good cause,” Raepple told WBFO. “All the money that is going to be raised is actually going to stay local and go to our Special Olympic athletes and that’s a big part of the Polar Plunge. We have about 3,000 athletes locally and we don’t charge our athletes to train or compete so we take care of all their travel, their uniforms, their competition and a lot of people don’t know that about the Polar Plunge.”
Over the past nine years, the event has raised $1,012,901, affording 2,025 Special Olympic Athletes in New York State the opportunity to train and compete. It costs $500 to support one athlete for a year of training and competition.

Woodlawn Beach was cleaned in a group effort yesterday in preparation for today’s event.
“We had the Erie County Sheriff, New York State Troopers and town of Hamburg police out doing a beach cleanup, going in the water, making sure all the obstacles are out of the way, making sure there aren’t any big branches out there and clearing the debris. We also had some assistance from the town of Hamburg and they’ve done a great job with that,” Raepple said.

Despite windy conditions yesterday, Raepple is optimistic for good weather. “It was really windy but the town of Hamburg has done a great job with the cleanup and everything so as long as the wind dies down, it should be a great day to plunge.”

Participants are encouraged to wear silly costumes that will be judged in a contest before the plunge begins.

There will be a convoy of food trucks at the event as well.