The Mercyhurst community is getting ready once again to prepare for another “Erie Polar Plunge,” set to take place on Nov. 18 at noon.
This year will be the third annual plunge. Mike Ruzzi, anchor with WICU-TV, and Joe Lang, DJ with BOB FM 94.7, will be co-emcees again this year.
Each year, dozens of students from Mercyhurst University, other area universities and the local Erie community come together to raise awareness for Special Olympics PA (SOPA). The plungers commit to “Freezin’ For a Reason” and have to raise a minimum of $50 to “dip a toe, wade or jump into the icy waters of Lake Erie.” All of the money that is raised goes to supporting nearly 20,000 Special Olympics athletes across Pennsylvania.
Meghan Maker, Marketing and Development intern for the Plunge, has played a role in making this event possible. This year, she and the rest the team have implemented a new component.
“This year, we are implementing a new ‘college challenge,’” Maker said. “We have invited all area schools to participate.”
The school that raises the most money will win a trophy and “bragging rights,” Maker said.
“In the past, Mercyhurst has had a huge presence and raised over $10,000,” she said.
Last year, more than 600 people participated. This year, with the stakes being raised even higher, the goal is 800 plungers and a total of $95,000 raised, Maker said.
Mercyhurst in particular “has set a goal for 200 students, 50 faculty and staff members and a $15,000 fundraising goal,” Maker said.
Other than the freezing trek into Lake Erie, there will be games to play, free hot dogs to eat and hot chocolate to drink. Last year even had music.
“There was live entertainment by Rock Erie Music Award winning singer Matt Boland, ice carving by Erie Ice Carvers and face painting by Taradoodles,” Maker said.
Some other members of the Polar Plunge team include event manager Jessica Kurry and Corporate Giving manager Megan Frenz. Kurry has been helping with the event since it started up three years ago and says she is thrilled to see that the Plunge keeps continuing to grow.
“The plunge is always such a spectacle,” she said. “There is so much energy, and to see 600 people running into the frigid water of Lake Erie in the middle of November is just a highlight in itself.”
She also mentioned that a yearly tradition is carrying the Special Olympics torch to the edge of the water as part of the opening ceremonies, which for participants and spectators is always a unique sight to see.
Those who raise funds can earn rewards including water bottles, an Amazon Fire, an Amazon Alexa Echo Dot, an Apple iPad Mini 4 and more.