Hundreds of brave Cornellians and Tompkins County residents raised more than $40,000 for local Special Olympics athletes by running — or diving — into frigid Cayuga Lake at Taughannock State Park on Saturday afternoon.
The fourth annual Ithaca Polar Plunge raised $40,192 via registration fees from students, local organizations and others who high-stepped into the cold waters on a rainy afternoon.
“It was cold — it was freezing,” said Cooper Paston ’18 said as he and several other Phi Kappa Psi members who had participated in the plunge dried off at the park.
“It’s been colder in years past, but this was fun. It definitely takes your breath away when you first jump in.”
“You’re ready to get in and out,” he added as another fraternity member wrapped himself in a New York Yankees bathrobe.
The fraternity has participated in each of the four years the plunge has been held at the park, members said. Many plungers donned silly outfits — clown noses, chicken costumes, colorful clothes — or recorded selfie videos as they entered the water.
About a dozen members of the Ithaca Police Department donned their uniforms and entered the cold waters of Cayuga Lake, including some officers who dove head-first into the water.
Afterward, IPD officers stood for a group photo in the lake and were splashed by another member of the department.
IPD raised more than $1,500 for local Special Olympics athletes. Phi Sigma Kappa raised $2,415, more than all teams except for the New York State Park Police and a group named 5K Chili.
Cornell Campus and Community Engagement raised $2,385 and The Cornell Store & Friends raised $1,380, according to the plunge website.
The money will be used to support New York Special Olympics athletes.