The Third Erie Polar Plunge will be taking place this Saturday, November 18, at Presque Isle Beach no. 7 in Erie. The Plunge aims to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics PA (SOPA). Participants need to raise a minimum of $50 to plunge, or they can opt for the “Too Chicken” option which allows individuals to donate without actually taking the plunge. Registration for the Polar Plunge starts at 9am, with the actual plunge taking place at noon.
Mercyhurst has been participating since the very first Erie Polar Plunge and even has students on the Polar Plunge Board.
Meghan Maker is a junior class senator on Mercyhurst Student Government, and also a Marketing and development intern for SOPA.
“I have been creating social media posts, fostering an increase in followers on the various platforms, and interviewing Special Olympic athletes for material to be used in our marketing,” Maker said.
“As far as preparations go, we have been really trying to boost the event through various media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” Maker said. “We also have had a full-page ad in the Erie Times News, PSAs running on the Erie news channels, an interview on Happi radio, and e-blasts sent to the emails of all registered plungers, donors, and those have plunged in the past.”
There are five billboards around Erie that were donated by Lamar to advertise for the plunge Maker said.
“Last year there were over 600 participants and we are looking to be about the same this year,” Maker said. “Over $45,000 has been raised so far in online donations and corporate sponsorships. All proceeds will go to benefit SOPA athletes who get to participate in over 250 competitions and practices annually, free of charge. Pennsylvania has around 20,000 Special Olympic athletes with nearly 700 of them being from Erie, Crawford, and Warren counties.”
Mercyhurst Student Government VP Christian Copper oversees the Polar Plunge Ad Hoc Committee.
“Mercyhurst has been a major contributor to the Polar Plunge for the last three Plunges,” Copper said. “Sam Lioi, last year’s vice president, and I have attempted to cement Mercyhurst’s involvement in such a worthwhile event to the local Erie community. Our Education department has really helped us in this effort, and have been the largest participant on campus.”
Copper has also participated in taking the plunge during the event.
Copper said, There’s nothing quite like the experience. Upon showing up to the event, there are a lot of things to do. SOPA organizes live bands, games and events, and free refreshments. This area is called Plunge Town. Some choose to tailgate the Plunge, and so there are usually a lot of people just hanging around having fun.
“At the time of the actual Plunge, all of the participants are gathered on the beach,” Copper said. “One of the SOPA athletes usually gives a speech about the importance of SOPA, and the ways that their life has been improved through competing. After this, the first wave to take the plunge is usually made up of police officers. After this, each group takes turns plunging into the lake.”
“The feeling of hitting the water for the first time is indescribable. It is such a rush of adrenaline that I didn’t even notice the cold until it was up to my chest. Upon leaving the water, the plungers move (usually in a brisk jog) to the changing rooms and change out of their wet clothes. After you go in, there aren’t really a lot of other things to do other than put on as many layers as possible. I’d say that the whole experience was one of the highlights of my college experience, and I can’t wait to plunge again on Saturday,” Copper said.
SOPA and the Erie Polar Plunge have started a “Cool School” challenge, which has been extended to schools in the area inviting them to join in the Polar Plunge. The school that raises the most money will receive a trophy, a prize and bragging rights.
“Our hope is to spread our enthusiasm to other schools in the area,” Copper said. “With more schools involved, we hope to create a friendly and competitive atmosphere. This year, we have close to 100 plungers made up of both faculty and students, and we hope to increase that number in the upcoming years.”
To learn more about SOPA and the Erie Polar Plunge, go to http://specialolympicspa.org/erie-about-plunge