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Yorkers take the Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics

Christopher Dornblaser
  • Around 700 people took the plunge into the Susquehanna River Saturday morning
  • The event raised about $120,000 for York County Special Olympics
  • Those too "chicken" to get into the water performed the Chicken Dance on the banks of the river

There are two kinds of Polar Bear Plunge participants: those who dip their toes in first, and those who just go for it.

"You can't think about it, you just have to go," said participant Erika Silko, of Dover.

Hundreds of brave souls took a dip in the Susquehanna River in Wrightsville Saturday— in spite of the cold weather — to help raise money for York County Special Olympics.

The event:

A crowd of about 25 plungers, took to the waters for wave three of the Polar Bear Plunge Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Wrightsville, PA. Amanda J. Cain photo

Teams began taking the plunge around noon.

Spectators watched as teams made their way into the frigid water, with some dipping their toes in and others fully submerging themselves in the water.

Team members who opted not to plunge performed the "Chicken Dance" instead, signifying that they were too "chicken" to go in the cold water. Roughly 700 people went into the river, according to Krista Gardner, a member of the event's fundraising committee.

The teams:  Blue Line Plungers was a team made up of retired and current York County police officers, friends and family members. They were the first to make the plunge and were led to the river by an officer playing bagpipes.

The Blue Line Plungers, made up of York County police officers, sheriffs and friends, walk together as a unit to participate in the first wave of the Polar Bear Plunge Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Wrightsville, PA. The Plungers raised $14,000 for the York County Special Olympics. Amanda J. Cain photo

The group raised $14,000 this year for Special Olympics.

The team's captain, Robert Lehman, a retired officer from Spring Garden Township, was bundled up after making the plunge. He submerged himself completely during the plunge.

Despite the cold, he said, he was happy to do it.

"It's all about the kids," he said. "I think we get as much out of it as they do."

Another team, "Freezin for our Beez," a team of nine that made the plunge in honor of Kristin Barker's brother, Brian Sheller, nicknamed "Beez." Brian was a former Special Olympics participant who passed away. Team members were wearing bee outfits when they made the plunge.

Melissa Myers, center, reacts to the water temperature, as her team "Ice Ice Babies" complete the Polar Bear Plunge  Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Wrightsville, PA. Amanda J. Cain photo

Barker, of Dover, said the cold water can be painful.

"It feels like you're being stung by a bazillion bees," she said.

After the plunge, Barker said she enjoyed the experience.

"It was awesome," she said.

Barker added that the water felt even colder than it has in previous years.

"It really took your breath away for a second," she said.

Some teams had costumes and others went in only bathing suits. Someone dressed as Spider-Man also made the plunge.

Franklin & Marshall Fraternity brothers get pumped for wave seven of the Polar Bear Plunge Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Wrightsville, PA. Amanda J. Cain photo

The event raised $120,000 in donations, according to event fundraiser Gardner.

"We are so thankful to have the support of the community," she added.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at