Jim Chenot has learned to survive in hot water in more than two decades as a wisecracking radio personality.
On Saturday, however, the host of the popular Radio Sandbox on WAPS (91.3-FM) on Friday nights will take a plunge to the opposite extreme.
Chenot and more than 200 other brave souls plan to jump into nearly freezing water as part of the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club's sixth annual Polar Bear Jump.
The jump, which is expected to attract more than 1,000 onlookers to Portage Lakes State Park, will benefit the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Chenot is no neophyte when it comes to jumping into freezing water, but he admits it took him a little while to get his nerve up for his first plunge.
''What's really amazing is that I swim about 30 to 45 minutes every morning'' at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium, Chenot said, ''and the hardest part of the process is getting into the water because it's so cold.
''And I knew the water in Portage Lakes was going to be about 10 times as cold. Hey, it is February.
''I've always been intrigued about cold-water swimming clubs like the Boston Brownies and the Polar Club of Milwaukee. I wanted to give it a try,but. . . . ''
Chenot eventually ran into event founder Kelly Pariso through his primary sales job and made his first plunge in 2007.
''It was really tailor-made for me to try this, and I immediately discovered it's really a great event,'' said Chenot, a Canton native and member of the original staff at WONE (97.5-FM) in 1985.
''It's not something that I'd want to stick around and swim laps, like I do at the Nat, but I'm able to get in and out quickly and you survive.
''You also realize that it's like a lot of other things in life. The cold water is not nearly as bad as you think it's going to be.''
Chenot will be plunging Saturday for the third year in a row. He was looking forward to being joined by his son Evan, a seventh-grader at Erwine Middle School in Coventry. But Evan was hit with a viral infection recently and had to pull out.
''There's always next year,'' Chenot said with a grin.
Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. at the park at 5031 Manchester Road. There will be parking at the swimming beach's lot, with shuttle service to the jump area.
Jumping is to begin at 2 p.m. Each jumper is asked to have at least $25 in donations pledged.
''The food bank really is a great cause,'' Chenot said. ''And the timing couldn't be better. The recession keeps getting worse and there are a lot people who are hungry. It's great to be able to have fun and help people at the same time.''
Dan Flowers, president and chief executive of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, said the help from the Polar Bear Jump comes at a crucial time.
''The food bank has seen an unprecedented increase in demand for emergency food,'' Flowers said. ''This event will help us to provide more than 140,000 meals to help feed hungry people in the communities we serve.''
The food bank will become the first repeat beneficiary in the six-year history of the event.
''We may end up going with the food bank every other year after this,'' Pariso said. ''The relationship we have with them is very strong and it's a great thing for the community.''
Pariso said the first event in 2004 had 100 jumpers and raised $13,000 for the American Cancer Society. It was held in the backyards of his and neighbor Jeff Fulkman's homes on Bay Path Drive in Coventry Township.
Pariso said he expects the number of jumpers to nearly double this year.
''We've called all of the past jumpers and they've agreed to come back, and bring a friend,'' said Pariso, a financial adviser for Ameriprise Financial in Green.
The Polar Bear Jump has raised nearly $90,000 for various local charities over the past five years, including $22,000 for the March of Dimes last year.
Helpful hints and sponsorship forms are available at http://www.portagelakespolarbearclub.com. For information, call 330-645-0589.