Polar Plunge at Brighton High School

Getting cold to help a cause

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Teacher and first-time jumper Madeline Peltier walked out of Leith Lake. In order to jump for Polar Plunge, an individual or group had to have fundraised/donated a minimum of $75. “During the final days, I promised a prize of a pizza party to the class that raised the most money. My debate class raised about $80 in one day and won.”

Is it better to spend a Saturday at home or in a dirty, freezing lake? Many from Livingston County chose the latter with a bigger goal in mind. As a way to raise money for Special Olympics programs, groups and individuals raised money and participated in the Polar Plunge at the Brighton High School on Saturday, Jan. 25. 

Weather conditions for the Plunge were not optimal with temperatures being warmer than usual. Normally, the police department would cut out a hole a ways within Leith Lake where people would jump in, then they would quickly pull them out. However, the ice was not thick enough to make this hole. This year jumpers had to walk from the shoreline and jump in, then police members pulled them out. At the shoreline, there is vegetation and muck to unpleasantly step on before and after jumping in. 

While different than normal, this did not deter people from jumping. 

For many people, it was not about deciding if they wanted to do the Polar Plunge or not, but about what to wear! One of the trends of Polar Plunge is wearing a costume to add some fun to the event, as well as a chance to win a prize. This year there were a variety of costumes, including stormtroopers, yodas, the Chiquita banana lady, Peter Pan and his shadow, Spider-man and steampunk. One man wore an Ohio State jersey, commenting that if he was going to jump into a dirty lake, he should wear clothes to match the occasion. 

BHS Unified member Zach Thomas said, “I expected more people to be in swim trunks.” He, along with his BHS Unified team, has participated in Polar Plunge for many years. The team wore their Unified shirts to show team spirit as they jumped in Leith Lake. The best part of Unified for him was playing basketball with friends.

As of Jan. 8, BHS Unified raised $6,828 under their team name. Some titles they won were the most money raised by a team and the most members on a team, according to the Livingston Polar Plunge website. During the previous week, BHS Unified sold snowcones during all lunches for the cause.

In total, as of Jan. 28, about $31.3k were raised, according to the Livingston County Polar Plunge website. This would be in addition to donations generated through the 50/50 raffle and donations encouraged with food provided at the Polar Plunge event. Restaurants such as Olgas and Subway donated free food, which was available in the auxiliary gym for free with donations encouraged.

At the start of the event, individuals could enter through Lake Lot into the auxiliary gym and register between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm. At 1:30 pm, individuals and teams were introduced to the audience and judged for prizes. The 50/50 raffle occurred throughout, and people could snack on food that was donated. 

After jumping in, jumpers rushed to the BHS showers to wash off and heat up or simply dried off for the time being. 

It was teacher and BHS Unified Member Amanda Bell’s first experience jumping at Polar Plunge. Her hope for the future is that, “Next year more teachers and students would join in,” including more Unified members and BHS students and teachers in general.

Unified member Allison Shareck said, “It was colder than last year.” She jumped in Polar Plunge in previous years, and as a senior, she won’t be able to participate in the plunge with her teammates next year. For Junior Unified member Jackson Fribley, he is excited to participate in the next year to come. 

Fribley said after jumping, “My feet are cold but everything else is numb.”

Still, a Michigan winter was no match for his and other jumpers’ spirit of raising money for Special Olympics programs through the Livingston County Polar Plunge.  

Unified Members line up to jump into Leith Lake behind the Brighton High School. Previously, the BHS Unified team had been in the Auxiliary gym keeping warm and hyping each other up for the Plunge.