The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 9, 2013

Hundreds take plunge for Special Olympics

Patrick Buchnowski

BOSWELL — Batman showed no fear Saturday when he and other superheroes braved the icy water of the Quemahoning Reservoir near Boswell.

More than 450 people jumped into the frigid water during the Laurel Highlands Polar Plunge. The event raised about $50,000 for the Western Pennsylvania Special Olympics that begin today.

Some wore crazy outfits, others wore shirts and shorts and some wore almost nothing.

Michael McLaughlin, aka Batman, took the plunge for the first time.

“It was a shock, literally,” said McLaughlin, 20, of Johnstown.

He jumped in unsure of what might happen. The temperature hovered around 24 degrees.

“I’ve heard of people going into shock, cardiac arrest, but I wasn’t sure,” McLaughlin said. “I came out all right.”

He and seven friends dressed as Justice League superheroes like Flash, Superman and Superwoman.

“I’ll be back next year,” he said.

This was the third year for the Polar Plunge, which began with 44 hardy souls. Last year, nearly 200 participated.

For Sam Brown and Stephen Borosky of Somerset, taking a dip was in remembrance of Special Olympian Randy Miller, who died in a fire in Somerset about 12 years ago.

They wore his Special Olympics medals in his honor.

Borosky and Brown, sponsored by Mel’s Restaurant, found the water refreshing.

“It was so great we went in a second time,” Borosky said. “It’s cold, but it’s just like anything else. The adrenalin kicks in and you warm up really fast.”

Added Brown: “It was actually awesome. Not as bad as I expected.”

Jim Burton, WJAC television meteorologist and board member of Special Olympics Pennsylvania, said the event is on track to meet its goal.

“Our goal is to make it a $100,000 event annually,” he said. “I think within five years it should be there.”

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