Polar Bear Plunge raises $43,237 to help kids
PHILIPSBURG — Ice and 36-degree water did not stop 125 individuals from running into the lake at Black Moshannon State Park this past Saturday morning for the 15th annual Polar Bear Plunge.
“When I first heard about the Plunge, I thought, ‘I’m not doing that!’ and then I did!” said Marion-Walker Elementary School Principal Karen Krisch, who did the plunge for the third time. “It is great fun and with everyone gathering for a good cause, it is really inspiring.”
Bellefonte Area School District is one of the school districts that participates in the Plunge each year, with administrators and staff recognizing the need to support the YMCA of Centre County’s Open Doors and Backpack Weekend Food programs.
“I have worked with too many hungry kids, and I know how it affects their lives and ability to learn if they are coming to school hungry,” Krisch said.
Another member of the Bellefonte Area School District community who returned to plunge in the cold waters is Superintendent of Schools Michelle Saylor.
“I plunge because I believe in giving back and paying it forward,” Saylor said. She participated in the plunge for the second time. “Over the course of my life, like so many of us, a lot of people have affected my journey and many times others have reached out to help me. This is just one small way I can reach out to help others.”
The YMCA backpack program serves more than 1,000 students from seven local school districts. The Open Doors program was created to provide financial assistance to families, adults and youth with limited financial resources.
In Bellefonte, more than 200 students are served through the community backpack program, which provides students in need with food over the weekend. Saylor said about 140 backpacks are refilled each week.
More than 15 volunteers help pack the backpacks for Bellefonte on Thursday afternoons, she said. These volunteers include district staff, community members, and representatives from several local organizations, such as Watermarke Church, Kiwanis and the Penn State Credit Union.
“I am incredibly proud of our district (students and staff) and our community — they genuinely care about each other and don’t hesitate to reach out and lend a helping hand,” Saylor said.
“When you hear how excited students get when they receive the backpacks and talk about sharing the food with their family members, it is very gratifying,” Krisch said.
Each year, local school districts have a friendly competition with the Plunge in what is known as the “Cool School Challenge.” The past two years, Bellefonte took home the award, raising $2,143 last year. This year, Bald Eagle Area School District took home the honors.
Other awards given for the Plunge included:
r Best Costume: State College Young Professionals
r Most Seasoned Plunger: Grace Burpo of Bellefonte
r Most Raised by an Individual: Troy Weston of Bellefonte ($1,135)
r Most Raised by a Group/Team: State College Young Professionals ($3,602).