In a winter when temperatures in the 20s have been considered warm days, Saturday’s 46 degrees seemed downright balmy.
Unless of course, you happen to be one of the 900 or so folks who jumped into the frigid waters of Turkeyfoot Lake on Saturday as part of the 11th annual Polar Bear Jump sponsored by the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club.
The event raised more than $100,000 that will be divided between the Ronald McDonald House at Akron Children’s Hospital and Camp Quality Ohio, a camp for children with cancer.
This was the warmest day for the event since its inaugural jump in 2004 when it was 57 degrees. Inside the water, however, was another story.
“I can’t feel my legs,” said Karen Nye of Hudson, as she emerged from the icy water, “My feet are aching cold.”
Nye decided she wanted to make the jump to celebrate her recent 50th birthday, so she gathered friends, neighbors and co-workers to jump with her. They donned 1890s-style bathing suits, complete with ruffled caps, for the event. Sue Malson of Hudson said the “old lady” bathing suits were to tease Nye about getting old.
But Nye said her reason for wanting to make the jump had less to do with her birthday and more to do with honoring Maryanne Kirk, 2, of Hudson, who has childhood leukemia.
Maryanne’s father, Joseph Kirk, is an anesthesiologist who works at Akron General Medical Center, and knows Nye and many of her friends through work.
“Many of them work with me at Akron General,” Kirk said, “They are surgical staff.”
He was at the jump with his wife, Karol, and their children, including little Maryanne, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in October. They cheered as the bright red-and-green-striped suits hit the water.
Nye and her friends, including pediatric eye surgeon Anthony Locastro and Gerry Thornlow of Hudson, raised more than $3,000 with their team, Jump for Maryanne.
Their team was the first in the water.
Behind them paraded a cast of jumpers — young and old, first-timers and experts — clad in bikinis, tutus, angel wings, superhero costumes, and all variety of bathing suits.
Kelly Pariso, who helped to found the jump in 2004, said it’s amazing how the event, which started in his backyard during a holiday party, has expanded into such a large community affair.
More than 4,000 people have made the jump in the past 11 years, raising nearly half a million dollars for local charities. The club hopes to be able to continue to raise $100,000 each year.
Lisa A. Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.