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Freezin' for a Reason

Hundreds participate in the 'Polar Plunge'

By: Jackalyn Kovac

QUEMAHONING TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Close to 600 people participated in the 2014 Polar Bear Plunge at Quemahoning Resevoir Saturday. The event kicked off the 2014 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Winter Games.

The goal of the plunge is to bring awareness to the Winter Games and benefit the Western Pennsylvania Special Olympics' athletes.

"We enjoy coming out here. It's a good cause. We had an uncle that had Down syndrome; he passed away last year," said Kristi Smith, of South Fork, Cambria County. "It's nice to see everybody come out and participate for the Special Olympics."

Those participating in the plunge donated at least $50. Many wore costumes into the water.

Aaron Polke, a paraplegic went in with his wheelchair, something he says was on his bucket list.

"You know since I'm pushing [my wheelchair] through [the water], it was taking me a little bit more time to get out there. Then there is those guys that are already out to the [edge] and coming back and I'm like, 'Oh boy, I'm not even halfway to where I want to be right now,'" said Polke. "When I did finally get deep enough to where I could put my head under, I put my head under then I knew; I knew I got get out of here."

According to event officials, this was the most 'polar' of the polar plunges because of the temperatures. The event is believed to have raised around $70,000.

The Special Olympics Winter Games begin in Johnstown on Sunday. The opening ceremonies take place in Central Park at 6:30 p.m.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times