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February 17, 2014

FREEZERBURN: Polar Plunge lives up to its name at Deam Lake

BORDEN — Floating in 34-degree water and surrounded by 8-inch-thick ice, Indiana State Police diver Sgt. Manville Nagle lifted his hand out of Deam Lake.

A piece of ice was firmly attached to his dive suit.

“I’ve been diving since 1976; this is exhilarating,” Nagle said. “See how it’s freezing to my suit? It’s fun to see the looks on [the plungers’] faces.

Saturday’s seventh-annual Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics was the coldest in four years and only the second in which crews had to break through thick ice. Though Friday’s late-night winter weather froze over some of the roads and rescheduled high school sports for Saturday morning, 293 plungers still showed up.

Earlier in the week, a backhoe was brought in to break through the ice. At about 9 a.m. Saturday, state police dive crews arrived with chain saws to make the hole big enough to accommodate large groups of plungers.

Bobbie Binggeli, Special Olympics Area 2 director and Borden Plunge co-chair, said though attendance was down this year — with about 380 people diving in last year — they still raised just less than $66,000 for their athletes.

But she said donations are still coming in.

“[Icy roads] affected the crowd and so did the cancellation of high school games,” Binggeli said. “There are a few groups with high schools that were supposed to be here, but had to make up their games, so we’re down some of those players.”

The roads on the way to the lake also were covered in ice. But the parking lot for the beach at Deam Lake was mostly clear since Department of Natural Resources crews worked since Wednesday to clear out spots, as well as arriving at about 5 a.m. Saturday to clear some of the ice.

The freezing temperatures encouraged those who made it out. Drew Adams, a candidate for Clark County Circuit Court 1 judge, jumped in with his team. After coming out of the lake, he said he was glad he participated.

“You don’t think about the cold when you know what you’re doing it for,” Adams said.

Binggeli said most plungers share that mindset. She said the idea of helping a good cause motivates people to do something extreme if it means raising money.

“The theme is Freezin’ for a Reason,” Binggeli said. “We’re here to support our local athletes and the competitions they’re in.”

But behind the safety fence, bystanders stayed warm on the snow-covered beach relative to their friends jumping in the water. Patty Haehl, 49, Sellersburg, said she was glad to see her friends getting involved, but was even happier that she wasn’t jumping in with them.

“It’s not for me, too cold,” Haehl said. “I think it’s a good cause, but they’re crazy.”

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ON THE WEB

• Special Olympics Indiana — soindiana.org

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