PLATTSBURGH - It was a nice day for a swim - except for the fact the water temperature was in the 40s.
Despite the near freezing conditions of Lake Champlain, hundreds gathered at Plattsburgh City Beach for the first annual Freezin' for a Reason Polar Plunge Nov. 13. The reason? Supporting Special Olympics New York, an organization that hosts an annual state competition for those with intellectual disabilities.
Michelle Menard, one of the organizers for the event, couldn't believe the turnout for both the plunge and the preview party and silent auction hosted the night before. Combined, the two events raised more than $22,000.
"I was shocked, totally shocked," said Menard. "The first couple weeks, there was only about $1,000 posted on-line, and then, in the past couple days, it just exploded. It's been so great for the community and everybody that helped out. Everybody's been talking about it."
"We had heard about it and thought it was a great cause," said Megan Gruschow, a student at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh who participated with the Student Nursing Association team. "I'm going to school for special education, so it was a great opportunity to be a part of this."
Did Gruschow's thoughts change once she stepped foot in the water? Not at all. But, just what was running through her mind when her toes touched the lake for the first time that day?
"That I was insane," she said, laughing. "But, it's an experience I will never forget. I was freezing, but it was awesome."
"I don't think I was thinking anything, to be honest. I just went in," said Gruschow's friend and teammate, Emily Vallone. "We actually went back in three times. This is our last year at Plattsburgh State, so we want to experience as much as we can and this is a great cause. We figured, why not?