The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 27, 2014

'Freezin' for a reason': Polar Plunge slated for Feb. 8

JOHNSTOWN — It takes a special person to jump into a freezing Pennsylvania lake in February and pay good money to do it.

But that’s what organizers of the Laurel Highlands Polar Plunge are counting on.

If people donate to Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, they can go jump in a lake Feb. 8.

The Polar Plunge benefits Special Olympics Pennsylvania and the thousands of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“We are expecting as many as 500 to 600 plungers and a total of 1,500 people to take part in the event,” said Paula Eppley-Newman, event coordinator.

While spectators are more than welcome to attend, they will be asked to park in the parking lot at North American Hoganas at 111 Hoganas Way near Hollsopple.

“There will be three shuttle buses running a continuous loop to the event,” Eppley-Newman said. “That leaves on-site parking for the plungers.”

Spectators are admitted free.

The Laurel Highlands Polar Plunge, in its third year, has become the event to kick off the annual Winter Games.

“These brave individuals will be “freezin’ for a reason” as they take the plunge into the cold waters of the Que,” Eppley-Newman said.

Last year, $60,000 was raised and organizers have set a goal of $75,000 for this year’s event.

There is a minimum donation for each plunger of $50.

For people who want to help but are not ready to take the plunge, organizers are encouraging them to raise a minimum of $50 for a Too Chicken to Plunge donation.

People may preregister by visiting and selecting the Laurel Highlands Plunge.

For those brave souls who wait until the last moment to sign up, registration begins at 9:30 a.m. at the pavilion. People also will have an opportunity to enjoy Plunge Town, which will feature free food, warm beverages, music and games prior to the 1 p.m. immersion.

“We have four bands playing and Scottish bagpiper Jeff DeLisa will lead each plunge wave to the water for their dip,” Eppley-Newman said. “There will be warming tents and heated changing tents for men and women.”

Honorary chairwomen for the event are Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazarri-Strasiser and Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan.

“This is one cold case that each of these women can unravel,” Eppley-Newman said. “There are hints that one or maybe both will take the plunge.”

Just in case,  Swift Water Rescue and Conemaugh Township EMS will provide safety in the water and will be standing by in the event of some unforeseen incident.

“Students from Pitt-Johns-town have been saving their meal tickets and donated the food, and the Sheetz hot beverage truck will be on hand to dispense warm drinks,” Eppley-Newman said. “No matter what the weather conditions, the water temperature beneath the ice is always 34 degrees.”

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.

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