"It's time to swim,"
Those were the words organizer Bob Kasper said as he dove into Henning's Pond, Albrightsville at the start of the of the 11th annual Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday. To celebrate the outlandishness of the event - jumping into an ice covered pond in the middle of February, he was wearing a jester costume.
Kasper has been the organizer of the event from the beginning when seven people cut the ice and jumped into the ice covered pond for the fun of it.
The event has grown. This year 150 plungers lined up to jump. The annual event brought people from all over to plunge, including, Naples, Fla.; Rehoboth, Del.; Lancaster and Harrisburg.
This ice was 18 inches thick and the water and air were both a comfy 32 degrees.
The event had extra amenities this year, such a very hot tub and a heated changing area at the shoreline.
"This has been the best event yet," said Kasper. The event was a fundraiser for Children's Hospital in honor of Jordyn Zajac, a 5-year-old girl with a rare genetic disorder, Shwachman Diamond Syndrome.
While the ice was thick, there were a few cracks that formed during the cutting. That kept the spectators off the ice, but they were at least four deep all along the shore line.
"We have 10 guys who cut the ice," said Andy Bloss, who has jumped in most of the years the event was held.
Taking several hours, the hole is about 20 by 20 feet and about seven feet at the deepest point.
After Kasper's entrance and exit from the water, the jumpers, some wearing bathing suits, others outlandish costumes, began their plunge into the frigid water. Some jumped solo, others, like the O'Brien family jumped four at a time. The O'Briens wore St. Patty's Day hats and bow ties for their plunge.
Getting a lot of attention for their "wedding party" theme was Steve Schneider and his friends from Jim Thorpe. Schneider was the bride, wearing a white dress, wig and bridal veil.
It was Schneider losing his wig that caused one of the fully dressed ice cutters to fall into the water while trying to secure the wig. Ed Kingsland of Arrowhead Lakes scrambled to get out of the water, but stayed at his post in his wet clothes for another 15 minutes until he was advised to change clothes.
"I try to take care of these folks," he laughed, taking his unanticipated plunge in stride.
After all the plunging was done, the participants changed into dry clothes and later partied at Robert Christians Restaurant to brag about their antics and to crown Ms. and Mr. Pocono Polar Bear.
As Kasper prepared to crown the royal couple, he noted that he hoped to raise $5,000 for Children's Hospital through the event, but hadn't had the full count.
Also speaking was Kim Zajac, Jordyn's mother. She said that Jordyn was a strong little girl who endured more pain than anyone could imagine.
Crowned Ms. and Mr. Pocono Polar Bear were Sid Al-Hashimi, the only participant who wore a brief Speedo swimming suit; and Carolyn Phillips of Bristol and Lori Rovenolt of Levittown, who wore outfits in a St. Patty's Day theme. For the party at Robert Christian's Restaurant, Al-Hashimi wore an Elvis costume.