YMCA challenge raises $45,000 to help community members in need

EMMA GOZALVEZ/THE EXPRESS On Saturday morning, a total of 135 individuals plunged into the water at Black Moshannon State Park to benefit the YMCA’s Open Doors and Backpack Weekend Food programs. Plungers ran into 39-degree waters for the Polar Bear Plunge.

BELLEFONTE — Running into 39-degree water can be exhilarating, especially when it is for a good cause.

On Saturday morning, approximately 135 individuals, known as “plungers,” ran into the lake at Black Moshannon State Park for the 14th year of the YMCA of Centre County’s Polar Bear Plunge. A total of approximately $45,000 was raised by participants, an amount that will greatly benefit the YMCA programs that provide assistance to community members in need.

“It’s for the kids,” said Tami Spotts of Penns Valley, as to why she chose to participate. “It’s for the backpack program and all the kids who benefit from that.”

The YMCA’s Backpack Weekend Food program helps provide food for the weekends for students in need. The Centre County program benefits students from seven local school districts. Currently, the program provides more than 900 backpacks each weekend, according to Mary DeArmitt, marketing and communications director for the YMCA of Centre County.

The other program the event benefits, Open Doors, provides financial assistance to families, adults and youth with limited financial resources, and in 2015, more than $400,000 in YMCA memberships and programs were given back to the local community.

Another plunger, Caroline Helms of Bellefonte, said it was the first time doing the challenge for her and her team, “The Power Rangers.” Teams had the opportunity to dress up in costumes for the plunge to make it more fun and try their luck at winning “Best Costume.”

“We just heard about it and we thought it would be fun,” Helms said. “Now we’re going to be freezing cold but it’s good.”

During the challenge, two “brides” made the decision that they would rather dive into the chilly lake than say “I do.”

“We did it because we wanted to raise some money, and our dresses were sponsored by Diamonds and Lace, which was totally awesome,” said Lindsay Jimeson of State College, who works at Diamonds and Lace Bridal along with teammate Mae Rossi of State College.

The long, strapless dresses made it particularly difficult for “The Runaway Brides” to run into the water, but they managed it anyway.

“The worst part was going under,” Jameson said while shivering after the plunge.

Once plungers were warm and dry, a luncheon awards ceremony was held at the Philipsburg Elks Lodge and Country Club, where various individuals and teams were recognized for their efforts.

For “Best Costume,” the biker theme of “Mel’s Angels” came out on top. This team was made up of staff and members from the Moshannon Valley YMCA.

The group that raised the most money was Hartman Group insurance agency in State College, which raised $2,990. The individual who raised the most was Lisa Grove of Bellefonte, who raised $640. The school district that raised the most money for the challenge was Bellefonte Area School District with a total of $2,143.

Each year, a bartender is recognized by way of the “Bartender Challenge,” and this year’s winner was Karen Murray of the Atherton in State College, who raised $1,000.

The last award was the “Seasoned Plunger” which went to Sally Radomsky of Philipsburg.