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Icy adventurers jump in 18-degree lake

Over two dozen icy adventurers braved the 18-degree waters of Mauch Chunk Lake for St. Joseph Regional Academy’s Polar Plunge on Saturday, all in the name of supporting the school and its students.

“Today’s plunge went really well,” said Kathy Goff, president of St. Joseph Regional Academy’s Home and School Assocation.

“This is our fifth annual plunge, and we had a lot of people out here who were plunging, and we had some people register as ‘Chickens.’ We had a lot of repeat offenders, what I like to call our ‘Persistent Plungers.’ ”

Each participant paid a $35 registration fee to participate as a ‘Plunger,’ or opt out as a ‘Chicken’ who didn’t have to jump. At the end of the day, 27 people took the plunge, while 18 chickens preferred to stay warm and dry.

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Proceeds for the event will go to the Home and School Association, which in turn benefits St. Joseph Regional Academy and the students.

“We raise money for operating expenses, field trips, and things like that,” Goff said.


Community support from local businesses including R.F. Ohl, Mauch Chunk Trust Company, the Jim Thorpe Police Department, American Legion Post 304, and many more contributed to make the big Plunge possible.

But without the help of the Jim Thorpe Municipal Fire Company, no one would have been able to make the dive.

“Besides fighting fires, we also do a lot of other stuff, and this is one of them. Whatever we get asked to do, if we can do it, we’ll give them a hand,” Deputy Fire Chief Bill Diehm said.

Diehm and his crew showed up to the lake at 9 a.m. to cut a square patch in the 10-inch-thick ice, along with a path leading from the beach to the hole. Their work was briefly interrupted when an emergency call came through, though the firefighters were able to respond to the crash and finish the lake work on time.

“We had a call in between. There was an accident on 903. It would have been bigger, that hole, had we had the whole crew here, but we didn’t know when they would be back, so we limited the size so we could get an area cleared for those people to jump in,” Diehm said.

Once the clock hit noon, Plungers were welcomed to either run up the chilly water channel or jump in the hole from the edge of the ice.

Christine Schmidt of Jim Thorpe, who participated last year in honor of her mother, opted to hop in and get it over with. Schmidt said during her run into the water last year, she lost her shoes, forcing her to head back into the frosty lake to get them.

“This year, I did it right,” she said. “Last year I was standing in line, and you’re freezing as you’re waiting to go into the water. So then when you go in, it’s just all this water moving past you, and it’s almost colder that way, versus taking the initial plunge and jumping. But then, as you’re walking out, you’re feeling the cold water running again. It’s much better jumping in.”

Schmidt’s son Nate, a first timer, made a spectacle out of his jump by getting some serious air before curling into a cannonball.

“It was kind of exhilarating. I’ve never done anything like that, so it was cool,” he said.

Perhaps the worst part of the experience, according to many participants, is the rush from the water to the changing stations in order to get into some dry clothes.

“I went right for my towel, then got changed. But my feet are still freezing,” Nate Schmidt said a few minutes after his plunge.

Thanks to those brave and chilled-to-the-bone people like the Schmidts, the Home and School Association was able to raise over $1,500 for St. Joseph Regional Academy.

The question remains, though — what would it take to get Goff to hop into the wintry depths of Mauch Chunk Lake?

“There is not enough money in the world to get me to jump in,” Goff said with a laugh.

Christine Schmidt and her son Nate hop into the icy waters of Mauch Chunk Lake for St. Joseph Regional Academy’s fifth annual Polar Plunge on Saturday. BRIAN W. MYSZKOWSKI/TIMES NEWS