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Freeze and thank you: Polar Plunge raises $95,000

The freezing water didn’t seem to bother Mason Kimbell at the third annual Polar Plunge at Carver Lake in Woodbury. Kimbell, a sophomore at Park High School, participated as a Leo, the junior club of the Cottage Grove Lions. (Submitted photo)1 / 11
Christy Christofore did the Polar Plunge as a member of theDebuTaunts, a team of Roller Derby athletes who train in the recreation league for the Minnesota Roller Girls. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)2 / 11
Laurie VanAllen and Woodbury Police Sgt. Neil Bauer come up for air at the third annual Woodbury Polar Plunge. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)3 / 11
The unseasonably mild weather brought out the crowds for Saturday’s third annual Polar Plunge at Carver Beach Lake in Woodbury. The event raised over $60,000 for Special Olympics Minnesota. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)4 / 11
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Bill Destache, who volunteers with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Water Recovery Team, scoured the bottom of the pool prior to the third annual Woodbury Polar Plunge at Carver Lake Beach. He and fellow Recovery Team diver and dispatcher Julia Weegman were there to ensure there was no glass or other debris that might injure the jumpers. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)6 / 11
Members of the St. Croix Valley Riders assemble for their dunking during Saturday’s Polar Plunge at Carver Lake Beach in Woodbury. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)7 / 11
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Here goes nothing: Anna Walsh, April Stoebe and Anna Barton brace for the shock Saturday during the Woodbury Polar Plunge. The three are members of the Woodbury Blazing Stars, a Special Olympics team. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)9 / 11
Elizabeth Mooney made herself up as a ghoul for Saturday’s Polar Plunge at Carver Lake Beach in Woodbury. She and friend Anna White called their team Frozen to Death. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)10 / 11
Members of the Woodbury Blazing Stars Special Olympics team come up for air during the third annual Woodbury Polar Plunge. Left to right; Anna Walsh, April Stoebe, Anna Burton and coach Mike Diegneu. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)11 / 11

Anyone who thought that Saturday's mild weather would make the Polar Plunge less painful

was in for a shock.

Sure, the temperatures inched into the 40s. But that was cold comfort to the 550 jumpers who hurled themselves into the frigid waters of Carver Lake to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota.

The deceptively warm air may have left many unprepared for the heart-stopping jolt of a full-body arctic baptism.

"This year, because the water was colder than the air, it was a shock," said Kayte Barton, a Special Olympian and founder of the Woodbury Blazing Stars Special Olympics team. "I'm used to jumping in when the air is colder than the water."

The third annual Woodbury plunge raised $95,000.

Churning in the water like they'd just bailed from the Titanic, the jumpers gasped, shrieked and flailed madly towards the steps that led them to the warming tent.

"Ohmigod!" shrieked Anna Walsh, a member of the Woodbury Blazing Stars, as she emerged from the pool, trailing streamers of water.

While many wore costumes, a few hardy — or is it insane? — souls chose to jump without a shirt. There was at least one Speedo sighting. A few teams registered in the Too Chicken to Plunge category. They threw rubber chickens into the water.

Woodbury Police Sgt. Scott Melander said that the warmer temperatures made the wait more comfortable.

"It's very nerve wracking waiting around in 2- or 3-degree weather with a wind chill of 10 below," Melander said. "The first year the wind chill was something like 20 below."

Teams includes Team DebuTaunt, a group of roller derby athletes in the recreation league for the Minnesota Roller Girls.

The anticipation is the hardest part, said DebuTaunt member Shannon McNulty. She said the toughest part was "standing on the edge looking at the water. Once you're in, it's fine."

Elizabeth Mooney and Anna White wore ghoul makeup for their plunge as team Frozen To Death. Divers from the Washington County Sheriff's Office Water Recovery Team scoured the bottom of the pool prior to the start. "We don't want the jumpers to hit glass or debris," volunteer diver Bill Destache said.

There was one reported injury. A woman hurt her leg but declined medical attention.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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