BREEZY POINT - With sunny skies, temperatures reaching into the mid-40s and party music blaring from speakers from shore, Pelican Lake almost seemed an inviting place to take a dip Saturday - even though there was still a solid three feet of ice on the lake.
But 200 people took the icy plunge into Pelican Lake Saturday to raise funds for Special Olympics Minnesota.
It was so warm, many of the estimated 1,000 spectators even shed a few layers of winter clothing as they watched those brave enough to jump into the lake for the second annual Polar Bear Plunge.
Baxter Police Sgt. Andy Rooney, along with numerous volunteers, is a chief organizer of the event. The local plunge was started last year by Rooney and Brainerd Police Sgt. Terry Crocker, who is now serving in Afghanistan and was unable to make it back for the Polar Bear Plunge. Both have spent time volunteering at Special Olympics athletic events, and wanted to bring the Polar Plunge to the Brainerd lakes area because they believed in the cause.
Steve Shepherd, owner of Shep's on 6th, held his breath before going underwater Saturday at the second annual Polar Bear Plunge in Breezy Point. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"He's sorry he couldn't make it back," Rooney said of Crocker. "And I'm looking forward to him coming back."
A few local Special Olympic athletes served as judges for the costume contest. Joyce Knowlen, Deerwood, won for best female costume while Jim Woods, Brainerd, won for best male costume. The Yellow Brick Road Gang, dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz, won for best team costume.
"It's a lot of fun and having the athletes here is so much fun, to show everyone what they do," said Rooney.
Jolene Parks, a special education teacher from Brainerd High School, plunged in Pelican Lake in support of her students, who are also Special Olympians. She was joined by six other BHS special education teachers and educational assistants on their team, "BHS Dive Team Misfits."
Area chefs and waitresses wore their uniforms as costumes Saturday when they jumped into Pelican Lake in front of Breezy Point Resort for the second annual Polar Bear Plunge. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Parks conceded she was a little nervous to jump into the frozen lake but felt it was an important cause. Two of her students were there watching her jump.
"It's something very near and dear to my heart," Parks said, who sported a flowery swim cap and water wings as she jumped into the lake. "It was cold, but it was a lot of fun. Definitely worth it. To know the money I raised was going to a worthwhile cause and directly to the students I serve."
Plungers jumped into four feet of water in a hole cut out of the ice. Dive team members stood in the hole and along the waters edge in case participants needed some assistance. There were 23 teams that jumped Saturday.
David Leek, a Special Olympian from Pequot Lakes, was the first to jump in, along with his mother, Sally. They were followed by several area police chiefs and other law enforcement personnel, including Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl.
"I liked it," said David Leek, after he had dried off from his jump in the lake. It was his second time taking the plunge but a first for his mother, Sally.
Crosslake Police Sgt. Erik Lee took the plunge into Pelican Lake holding onto his son, Kameron, Saturday at the second annual Polar Bear Plunge in Breezy Point. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I thought it would be a lot worse but it wasn't that bad," said Sally Leek. "It was a beautiful day today."
After plungers exited the lake they were able to warm up in a hot tub on shore.
Between $43,000 to $45,000 was raised at Saturday's Polar Plunge. Last year, the first Brainerd Polar Plunge had 140 participants and raised $37,000.
The event was organized by Breezy Point Resort and Marina, Brainerd Police Department, Baxter Police Department, Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association, Crosslake-Ideal Lions, Baxter Lions Club, WJJY and Big Kahuna Hot Tub Rental with statewide sponsorship from the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police, Kwik Trip Stores and Target Corp.
Members of the YMCA's Dodgeball team reacted to jumping into cold water Saturday at the second annual Polar Bear Plunge in Breezy Point. The event raises money for Special Olympics. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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