Temperatures hovered around single digits, but this did not stop a group of philanthropists from participating in the 18th annual Polar Plunge. Despite the record breaking weather conditions community members made their way to the edge of the Ohio River ready to dive in.
There are other national jumps such as the polar bear plunge hosted in New Jersey, but many were canceled this year due to the exceedingly low temperatures. In preparations for the Scioto County event, planners kept up with a Facebook page spending time discussing the frigid temperatures and safety concerns. Participants who followed the event were encouraged to consider their health and well-being before deciding to take the plunge. A recent post ends with the taunt “bring it” assuring the public that the event would continue.
The Polar Plunge was started eighteen years ago by Jim Saddler who took interest in Veterans who reside in local retirement communities – the event continues to raise money and awareness for this cause as well as many others. It is currently being hosted by Sam Simon, a long-time friend of Jim Saddler, who leads the charge into the river.
“If it’s too cold, you’re too old” Simon said. When asked if there were any hesitations about the event Simon explained “We all made it, we haven’t lost anyone yet. If we do, they just aren’t jumping next year.”
In weather this extreme, most think twice before leaving the house however this group of individuals faced the challenge head on.
“It’s a family thing” stateed Andrew Simon who has participated for the last thirteen years.
“My cousin, Joey Carver is one of the reasons we do this now – for Organ Donation awareness” Andrew Simon commented. Carver was a family member who received several organ donations before passing after a lengthy illness.
Many of the returning individuals gave charity as their primary reason for participation.
Luke Daniel, a cousin of Andrew Simon gave a similar reason for jumping. “It’s routine now. It’s a tradition started by my uncle Sam Simon eighteen years ago. We do it to raise money for the Vets, we buy them Christmas gifts every year” he explained while preparing for the plunge.
During the polar plunge, a collection box circulates collecting donations for Portsmouth veterans. Daniel also brought his daughter Braelyn along – the 2018 polar plunge makes her second year participating. “It’s fun” she comments “all the family does it. I jump for Joey, because he won’t be able to do it anymore and I want him to feel like he still can.”
“If you’re scared its okay, it’ll be really fun,” was her response to anyone too scared to participate. “If you do it you’ll probably want to do it again.”
This was the first jump for Tyler Web, “I’ve wanted to do it for a few years, but this year P.D (Williams) called me and asked if I would do it for him” said Webb. His friend P.D Williams, is currently fighting cystic fibrosis. He stated that Williams has always participated in the polar plunge. In addition to the diving into freezing water, Webb donated to Cystic Fibrosis research.
Not all participants gave altruism as their reason for participation. “It’s a great way to start the year” commented Chris Wiseman. “We go swimming outside once a month, every month, this is just our January one.”
Cannons supplied by the local American Legion fired at high noon and participants splashed their way into the river. Despite mud and standing snow, many participants reported that the water was much warmer than expected.
“When I jumped in the water I was warmer” Web said.
In total, there were nearly thirty participants who braved the conditions for the 2018 polar plunge.
After drying off, Sam Simon invited participants back to The Block House for ham and beans. Several participants found there way there to warm up and share their victory. Also in attendance were some veterans and friends of event founder Jim Saddler.
”It’s the best bunch of people you’ll ever want to meet” said Jim Elliott, a retired firefighter and friend of Saddler. “I think it’s great. I never did it, but I think if you’re young you should do it; It’s for a great cause” he added.
“Sam does it all for the legion” commented Hank Hankison, a World War II veteran. When asked if he ever thought about participating he responded, “I did all kinds of dumb stuff in my life, but I thought ninety was too old for that.”
The 18th annual Polar Plunge continued to prove that local community members will go to great odds to bring awareness and support for their causes.