More than 120 people jumped or dove into the freezing water of Henning's Pond in Albrightsville on Sunday afternoon to raise funds for Kate Hageman Dunham.
A young mother with three children, Dunham was recently diagnosed with brain cell giloma, a serious brain tumor.
Last year 60 people braved the frigid temperatures, but Kate's story proved to be an inspiration to some plungers, who lined at the edge of the ice "for a good cause."
"We're doubling the numbers every year," said organizer Bob Kasper. "We're doing this one for Kate."
The 2010 Pocono Polar Bear Plunge was the ninth time the event was held.
The water was a decidedly chilly 32 degrees. The ice was 12 inches thick.
Those statistics were provided by Jim Lannigan. He said he and the rest of the team of Ed Walters, Eddy Kingland, Wayne Gunsch, Chuck Clark, Andy Blose, Rudy Fuchs, Nick Lerovante, Rick Ely, and Nick Seidel, worked for about 3 1/2 hours to clear the snow off the ice and cut the large square the participants used to enter the water. A ladder in one corner allowed the plungers to exit safely.
Shortly before the 1 p.m. plunge time, the participants disrobed and lined up to make their entrance. They knew the more outlandish their costume, actions or swim, the better chance they would have to win the coveted title of Mr. or Mrs. Polar Bear. Girls wearing bikinis are always given a few extra points.
Most plungers came with other family members or friends to make their dip a true "bonding experience," such as the Glenn family from Havertown, who brought seven family members; or the three O'Brien brothers from the Lancaster area. There was also the Ingram family from South Jersey, who came with six participants.
The costumes are always interesting. In recognition of Valentine's Day, Butch Zarrilli, 39, of Chadds Ford, Pa., dressed up as Cupid in white brief Speedos, shaved his chest hair in the shape of a heart and carried a quiver of arrows. There were also three girls dressed in white tights and white long-sleeved shirts with valentine hearts pinned to them.
Each year some of the names of the plungers remain the same, but there were plenty of "virgin" jumpers, willing to jump into the frigid water, just because they wanted to brag about the experience.
While most plungers wore very little, the audience along the shore line was bundled up in heavy coats, boots, gloves and scarves. Most of the viewers came prepared with cameras and camcorders so they could prove to their friends, family and co-workers that they actually participated.
Within an hour and a half, the 160 plungers had made their entrance and departure from the frigid water and then were ready to party at Robert Christians Restaurant, where the participants met for the braggadocio, beer and the royal crowning ceremony which follows the event. Named Mr. Polar Bear was "Cupid" Butch Zarrilli of Chadsford and sharing the title of Mrs. Polar Bear were Iris Calachino and Faith Loiselle, who wore pink polka dotted bikini tops, pink skimpy boxer bottoms and pink knee socks. They held hands as they jumped into the cold water.
Kasper announced that more that $6,000 was raised for the Dunham Medical Fund.
Dunham is the daughter of John and Kathleen Hageman of Pocono Pines. She attended Monsignor McHugh Elementary School and graduated from Bishop Hoban High School, where she was a top student, athlete and was quite popular. Later she graduated from King's College.
Dunham married Tim Dunham of Pocono Pines and they have three children, James, Mychi and Jack. The family lives in Thornhurst. She is an early childhood educator and works at the Tobyhanna Army Depot.
Dunham was diagnosed in early January with brain cell glioma at the Mayo Clinic. She is enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital with the neuroncology unit for specific treatment.