CHIPPEWA LAKE — For James Christenson, the annual Chippewa Lake Polar Bear Plunge and 5K Run-Walk fundraiser is becoming a family tradition.
The Chippewa Lake resident took part in his seventh polar plunge Saturday, this time with his children, Jack, 13, and Alexandra, 11. It was Jack’s second plunge and Alexandra’s first.
“We do it because it’s for a good cause,” Christenson said, immediately before he and his kids leaped into the icy water. “It’s helping people out — we’re freezin’ for a reason.”
Seventy-nine jumpers participated in Saturday’s ninth annual plunge at Chippewa Lake. Another 48 people ran or walked in the 5K, which started at noon and proceeded north along Beachside Boulevard and Lee Lore Drive, turned west on Chippewa Road and curved back to the lake.
With money still coming in Saturday night, members of the Chippewa Lake Lions Club, which organized the event, had counted more than $17,000. They said they will probably end up with about $20,000.
The money came from $30 registration fees, sponsorships of jumpers and other donations. Funds this year will benefit the Society for Handicapped Citizens of Medina County, the Lafayette Township Firefighters Association and food programs at CrossPointe Community Church and Chippewa Church at the Lake, both in Chippewa Lake.
The weather was plunge-perfect — temperatures were in the low 20s, and the skies were mostly clear. Last year, steady rain soaked jumpers before they dived and the beach was a muddy mess.
“We schedule the event at this time of year because historically late January and early February are the coldest weeks,” said event Chairman Alan Robbins, also known as chief polar bear. “Also, we’re in a football gap between the last playoff games and the Super Bowl, so there are no conflicts for anyone.”
At the plunge, local firefighters receive training they need in cold-water rescues by helping jumpers in and out of the water. Firefighters also help plan the event, and nearly 100 volunteers block roads and register jumpers, runners and walkers.
Costumed jumpers gathered on the beach at about 1:15 p.m. In pairs and in groups they walked about
25 feet onto the frozen lake — where organizers had chopped a hole in the ice — and jumped in. They stayed in the water only a few seconds.
One notable jumper was Grace Braver, the reigning queen of the Medina County Fair. The senior at Highland High School in Granger Township met the water wearing her crown, sash and gown.
Brian Marincic was part of a group of about 25 friends and family members, all dressed as pirates, who plunged into Chippewa Lake.
“We have a cottage right up there,” Marincic said, pointing up a hill. “We’ve been doing this for seven years. It’s for the community and a great fundraiser.
Another jumper was Bryce Dudash, whose family keeps a summer home in Chippewa Lake.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Dudash said after his plunge.