Polar Plunge planned Saturday at Chapman

Out with the vortex, in with the plunge.

Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, the Pat Shine Memorial Polar Bear Plunge will feature 100 or so people dashing into the icy waters behind Chapman Dam during Winterfest to raise money for the Salvation Army or just to say they did it.

“It’s a great help to us as we are helping this county with people who are in need,” Major Ronald Starnes of the Salvation Army of Warren said. “It gives us the opportunity of giving money towards people who might need rent assistance, gasoline, utility assistance…”

“It really helps us when people are generous to those who are plunging,” Starnes said. “We’ve raised between $5,000 and $10,000 each year.” The funds are not earmarked for particular uses, allowing the Salvation Army to use them where needed.

Although he will not be submerging himself in the icy waters this year, Starnes has done so for the past four events. This year, he will be one of the masters of ceremonies along with Grizzly Gary Wert.

Pledge forms are available at the Salvation Army citadel or the Winterfest website.

“This truly is ‘Freezin for a Reason,'” John Beard, who is an annual participant and helps organize the Northwest Savings Bank plunge team each year said. “It’s like being a politician for a day. We dress in costumes so we can look important, we make a lot of noise, we get pledgers to give us their money. And we claim credit for giving the funds to a great cause.”

“We expect about 100 plungers and maybe 200 to 300 spectators,” Beard said.

The Northwest “Men In Black” and the Willow Bay Theater of Jamestown, N.Y., cast of Rebel Without a Cause have announced teams for the event so far.

“We are thankful to Northwest Savings Bank who has a lot to do with helping us raise funds,” Starnes said.

While anyone can plunge, those who collect at least $10 in sponsorships will receive a T-shirt.

“We have people coming from all over,” Starnes said. “It is something known to other people, not just those in our area.”

He said he has people signed up from as far as Florida and North Carolina.

Some people just want to help.

“We have one gentleman in our area who takes it upon himself to raise an amount of money for the Salvation Army and plunge because he believes in what we do here,” Starnes said.

“Northwest supports us because we’re community people supporting a community cause,” Beard said. “We’ve advertised it on our internal newsletter, we have tremendous pledge support throughout the organization. In fact, every single member of senior management – 23 individuals – is either pledging or plunging.”

Whether interested in helping or there to brave the cold, there is some insanity involved.

“The fact that it’s crazy makes it that much more fun to help,” Beard said. “If we were walking a mile for a pledge, I don’t think there’d be much of a ‘wow’ factor. But when you tell people you’re plunging, they almost dare you to with their pledges… and that’s a dare we’re willing to take for a good cause.”

“It’s absolutely worth the cold,” Beard said. “That’s the draw. Not only do we help a great cause, but we get bragging rights for the next year.”