Polar Plunge

Above, some of the more than 400 participants of Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games Polar Plunge fundraising event react as they exit the water at Canoe Creek State Park in Frankstown Township, Blair County, on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Wearing matching maroon shirts and shark hats, nine representatives from 1st Summit Bank’s Richland Township office stood, shivering, on the banks of Canoe Creek State Park lake.

Then came the countdown “3 … 2 … 1 ...”

And they, along with about two dozen other individuals, ran into the bitterly cold water, splashed around for a few seconds and high-tailed their way out. Shaking from the wet chill was all for a good cause as they were participating in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games Polar Plunge fundraiser in Frankstown Township, Blair County.

“It’s just a good thing to do to come out and see all of these people who are raising money for special Olympics,” said Kyle Adams, from the 1st Summit group. “We helped raise – our team alone – over $2,000 today. We’re just happy to come out here and support Special Olympics.”

As for the experience of running into the water, Adams said “it takes your breath away for sure.”

Bethany Helsel, a Hollidaysburg resident, described the feeling as having her body “instantly freeze up.”

“But you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to make it, and I’m here,’ “ Helsel said. “It’s crazy. But it’s awesome.”

More than 400 individuals, who came by themselves or as part of organizations, such as 1st Summit and Sheetz, took the plunge.

“I started working with Sheetz about five years ago,” Altoona resident Shane Lanzendorfer said. “They had this in place, so I got to be part of that. I’ve done it every year since I started with them. It’s a great cause. It’s something that they really care about a lot. So it’s been easy to participate in and feel enthusiasm for.”

All total, plungers raised more than $122,000.

“It’s amazing that we get to do this every year because 50 years ago, when Special Olympics started, the goal was that none of our athletes would ever have to pay to participate,” Jessica Kury, director of events for Special Olympics Pennsylvania, said. “And having fundraisers like this means that we can continue that tradition and not make them pay to play sports.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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