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Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Polar Plunge for Special Olympics
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Broome County was full of Polar Bears Saturday, but not the kind you may be thinking of. As our Elyse Mickalonis explains, a lot of people plunged into some very cold water for a very good cause.

WHITNEY POINT, N.Y. -- December may not seem like the ideal time to take a dip, but these people don’t care.

"We’ll go under we’ve got to, we’ve got to,” said Steve Kristek, Binghamton University Masters Swimmers. “Otherwise you’re going to take a good ripping for a year."

Almost 80 people turned polar bear at Dorchester Park in Whitney Point Saturday. Together they took on an icy plunge into water that was 37 degrees. It was all part of Broome County's first Polar Plunge for Special Olympics New York.

"I think it’s amazing to get Southern Tier Special Olympics supporters and some new supporters in our area to really come out and show their support in a fundraising effort,” said Erin McCartan, Special Olympics New York Development Specialist.

Despite Saturday’s weather being fairly warm for the season, State Police say they’re still looking out for participants’ safety and looking out for symptoms of hypothermia.

"Hypothermia can set in five to six minutes,” said Timothy Reese, NYSP Troop C Diver. “Anytime it’s cold out like this even though there is no ice on the water. Thirty-seven degrees, five minutes you’re body starts locking up you can’t swim proficiently."

James Bailey, NYSP Troop E Senior Diver, added, "They get a safety briefing, they tell the participants not to go past us, then we watch the participants as they take part. We have EMS on standby."

Thankfully, everyone made it out ok, but many said the water was pretty cold, even for polar bears.

"Really fun, really cold, took our breath away I think,” said Brenda Baileys, Endwell resident.

Chelsea Hinman, Johnson City resident, added, "It was pretty cold it was ok walking in, but then you’re shock, going under makes you feel better."

Participants dried off and went home. Leaving behind fun memories and about 15 thousand dollars in donations, money that’s crucial for athletes. After all, a quick dip in cold water is small price to pay for a cause that means so much.

There are 14 plunges across New York that take place from November through March. Last year's plunges raised over one million dollars with nearly six thousand people participating.

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