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Polar Plunge makes a big splash at Woodlawn Beach

A COLD DAY FOR A SWIM — Pictured are participants in the Dec. 7 Polar Plunge at Hamburg’s Woodlawn Beach. Photo by Paul McQuillen.
HAMBURG — Baby, it was cold outside. But that didn’t stop hundreds of souls from braving the 27-degree temperature on Dec. 7, to visit Woodlawn Beach State Park.

Lake Erie’s temperature registered close to 40 degrees, as people from all over Western New York ventured into the icy surf.

The seventh annual Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics New York was staged at Woodlawn Beach for the third consecutive year; according to event planners, this marked the largest and most successful Polar Plunge, thus far.

The plungers were outnumbered by spectators, as supporters, plunge officials, police personnel and first responders gathered to watch the participants make their mad dash into the water.

While swimmers shed clothing down to their water attire, those who remained ashore were bundled in winter jackets, gloves, scarves and hats. Those who remained dry held towels, bathrobes, blankets and warm, dry clothing for the participants.

FESTIVE FOR A CAUSE – Shelby Harris and Amanda Snyder of Hamburg are pictured in their holiday finery. Photo by Paul McQuillen.
The first “wave” of plungers was made up of law enforcement and emergency services personnel, who entered the water carrying the flame of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the Special Olympics’ largest grass-roots fundraiser.

Following the first platoon, dozens of enthusiasts headed for the waterfront.

The city of Buffalo’s fireboat, the Edward M. Cotter, drifted offshore, spewing water from its cannons. Also drifting offshore was the Erie County sheriff’s marine unit; hovering overhead was the sheriff’s helicopter.

The New York State Police, Erie County sheriff’s deputies and Hamburg police were out in full force, joining emergency personnel and equipment from many of the surrounding volunteer fire companies.

Many of those exiting the water announced that “the water wasn’t that cold,” or “once I got my feet wet, I just kept going.”

Erica Raeple, development specialist for SONY, estimated that the 1,500 plungers who participated raised approximately $150,000, for the day.

PREPARING FOR THE PLUNGE — Members of the New York State Police SCUBA Unit, the town of Hamburg Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff’s Department gathered at Woodlawn Beach on Dec. 5, to prepare for the Polar Plunge. The crew made “passes” to look for and rid of obstructions in the water, to prevent possible injuries during the plunge. Photo by Alicia Greco.
She added that the actual figures “won’t be known until later in the week.”

The Special Olympics’ motto is “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

SCUBA DUBA – NYSP officers are pictured, from left: Troy Bullard, Stephen Austin, Tony Dubin, Steve Chriest, Pete Morrissey, Keith Mulawka and Jim Bak. Photo by Alicia Greco.
Prior to the event, on Dec. 5, members of the New York State Police SCUBA Unit, the town of Hamburg Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff’s Department descended upon the beach to clear the land and water of debris and ensure the safety of all Polar Plunge participants.

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