115 take part in annual Pocono Polar Bear Plunge
Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS Taking their plunge are P.J. Constanzi and P.J. Dotter, while Iris Calachino and Faith Loiselle wait their turn. Chris Kresge and John Gaughan are swimming.
Sunday's 'balmy' February temperature of 35 degrees didn't deter the 115 people taking part in the 11th Annual Pocono Polar Bear Plunge at Henning's Pond in Albrightsville.
There was only thin ice to be found on the pond surface because of this year's mild winter, so organizers floated a pontoon boat to serve as the plunger's launching spot. A ramp led from the shore to the boat. Plungers jumped, dived or flipped into the 35 degree water and swam or walked to shore.
"Other years it was a lot colder," said Faith Loiselle. She jumped with her friends who recreated the cast of "Gilligan's Island.
"Then when you jump into the water, it actually doesn't feel so bad." The crew arrived in the S.S. Minnow, (a white van) to take part in the annual swim.
Loiselle's character was "Ginger." Jonathan Loiselle was "Gilligan," and "Maryann" was Iris Calachino.
As time for the event grew closer, the bank of Henning's Pond swelled with plungers and approximately 300 onlookers, who came to watch the craziness of people willing to jump into icy water in the middle of February, just because they can.
For George Chiger, it was his sixth year. In honor of taking part in the event for six years, George jumped in six times.
Last year Ed Kingsland felt the cold unexpectedly when he fell in the pond fully dressed while trying to fish out someone's wig.
"I liked the pontoon boat idea a whole lot better than cutting the ice," said Kingland. "Four years ago when we didn't have any ice, we had the swimmers run in from the shore."
Others who provided safety and support were Wayne Gunsch, Ed Walters, and Doc Colzer.
Several other participants jumped multiple times on Sunday. As always, swilling alcohol, plain buffoonery and a little bit of cabin fever gave the plunge its popular edge.
The proceeds from this year's event benefitted The Wounded Warrior Project. It began five years ago to assist military and veterans returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan with medical bills, home repairs and educational expenses for the soldiers or their family members.
Robert Kasper, organizer of the event, welcomed the participants to the 11th Annual Pocono Polar Bear Plunge.
"The first year we had 30 plungers and this year we're celebrating 11 years," said Kasper. "The water is 35 degrees. We're here for another good year and another good cause. Let's go swim."
"I'll be here next year," said Scott Fraser of Locust Lake. "The water was cold, but I predict that I'll be here next year and it will be bigger and better. I plan to bring all my friends next year."