PDT Staff Writer
The annual Polar Bear Plunge into the Ohio River held every New Year’s Day is more than just a time of fun and games. The event serves as a fundraiser for local charities.
This year, 40 people took the plunge into the icy waters of the Ohio River. Sam Simon, the man who started it all, said he looks forward to the Polar Bear Plunge each year.
“We are freezin’ for a reason and getting wet for the vets,” Simon said. “I have been doing this for 13 years. It started at my home out of joyful, playfulness at the turn of the century a couple of friends came up and say, ‘Hey, let’s jump in the river,’ so the Boat Club, we did that and took a couple of pictures. And then seven people came to jump at my house, then 14,” Simon said.
With each year the number of people plunging into the Ohio River near his home in Sciotoville increased.
The plunge moved to Portsmouth in 2004 and has taken place there ever since.
“We just figured if we could get this much participation we should make a purpose for it. So we started jumping for the Boy Scouts, now we are jumping for Hospice, and the rest-home veterans,” Simon said.
Jim Saddler, a retired U.S. Navy Veteran, expressed his appreciation for the Polar Bear Plunge event.
“Isn’t this wonderful? These people are freezing so that our veterans can have a nice summer picnic at the Shawnee Boat Club,” Saddler said.
Saddler said that people come from as far as Huntington to take part in the plunge. The summer picnic for the veterans which will be held June 12, 2013.
As is the custom, participants of the 2013 plunge began gathering at 10 a.m. at the Blockhouse bar on Lawson Street in Portsmouth. Just before 11:30 a.m., the large caravan began making its way down town to the riverside, lead by American Legion Post 23 and the 40/8.
Jim Pack, the new owner of the Blockhouse bar, said it was his first time participating in the Polar Bear Plunge.
“Its for a good cause, for charities, for the Legion Post 23 and I am glad to help out with this,” Pack said.
More than 300 spectators gathered to watch the 40 participants take their plunge.
When the clock struck noon, the 40/8 fired their cannon, the cue for the participants to carry out their mission.
The plungers chanted, “USA, USA,” after which they raced into the frigid waters with joy, some shrieks and laughter.
Portia Williams may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 286 or firstname.lastname@example.org