Special Olympics' icy plunge raises $54,000

LAKE GEORGE - Following the longstanding traditions of frigid swimming and charitable benevolence, nearly 200 people from the region recently braved sub-freezing weather and frolicked in the waters of Lake George.

About $54,000 was raised in this Polar Plunge fundraiser for Special Olympics, the second year for the event in Lake George.

The number of people dashing into the frigid waters of the lake Dec. 13 was about double the number of last year, according to Bill Toscano, a plunge participant and top fundraiser. A Salem resident, Toscano is well-known locally for launching Community Conversation in Lake George and ACT for Youth in Warren and Washington counties.

"Despite the previous day's ice storm, the second edition of the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics New York turned out to be even better than the first," he said.

The Lake George plunge, held at Shepard Park beach, was one of 12 held across the state this season. It is one of the organization's largest fundraisers.

The plungers staged at Shepard's Cove restaurant and tavern, which opened for the event and was busy much of the day. All plungers who raised at least $100 received sweatshirt, and there were additional gifts for those who hit higher specified levels.

Toscano was the top individual money-raiser with $2,840, all of it raised on the Internet. This sum was nearly triple last year's collections, when he raised $1,000.

Saratoga Rugby club, which had the largest number of people, raised the most money among the teams with more than $3,269 raised.

A Mount McGregor employee group won among law enforcement teams.

Local sponsors for the event included Holiday Inn Turf, Radio 104.9, and the U.S. Army .

For nearly 40 years, Special Olympics New York has been providing year-round athletic training and competition for people with developmental disabilities. In the state, more than 46,000 athletes, ages eight and up, participate in 22 sports.

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