The Polar Plunge benefits the York County Special Olympics on an annual basis.
By Cindy Buttorf
Each year in the beginning of February, weather permitting, thousands of people gather world wide to take a breathtaking plunge into icy cold waters.
Five years ago, health teacher Mrs. Carrie Smeltzer brought the idea of the Polar Bear Plunge to York County, making it now York County’s largest fundraiser that benefits the York County Special Olumpics. Smeltzer started it to bring money in for the athletes to help pay for invitational events and specific equipment.
The first year the plunge took place in York, the event was a big accomplishment. “The first year was easy compared to now, it was new, I got butterflies because of the unknown. Will people show up and will they raise money?” Smeltzer said, recalling the thoughts from the first day of the plunge. This year over 300 people took part in the plunge and raised approximately $43,000.
Smeltzer had to leave her teaching position at the end of first semester last year after being diagnosed with breast cancer. “Last year was bitter sweet. The seniors knew my situation and supported me through the plunge,” Smeltzer said. That year was the largest turn out thus far for Red Lion, having 43 students participate in the plunge.
“I beat breast cancer, raising two kids, being a wife and a mom, running Special Olympics swimming and Polar Bear Plunge, just trying to stay as normal as possible.” Smeltzer said when she was asked about her year off. “[The experience] gave me a different out look on life; slow down, don’t take life for granted, absorb the little things. Just mainly slow down,” Smeltzer said.
There is always a little hesitation when it comes to trying something new and stepping outside of your comfort zone, but Smeltzer’s plea is, “Just do it, give it a try, and it’s three minutes of your life you will never forget.” Another thing she would like to see is a greater teacher and administration turn out for next year’s plunge.
“I want to thank Reinert for supporting something near and dear to my heart and risking hypothermia each year. I also would like to thank everyone else who helps out during that day, I couldn’t do it without you,” Smeltzer said in sympathy.