WELLINGTON TWP. — With the sun shining and temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees Sunday morning, hardly anyone would call the conditions “polar.”
While it was nicer than normal outside for this time of year, veterans and amateurs willingly took a dip into a frigid pond to raise $5,000 for the Angelman Syndrome Foundation during the eighth annual Polar Plunge.
The guest of honor, 6-year-old Zoey Senghas, led the group of about 60 participants out to the pond while holding a sign for the event. Zoey, who has Angelman Syndrome, was the first to take the plunge with dad Nick Senghas, mom Cindi Jackson and family friend Rachel Hyster.
After they jumped in, the other participants followed suit — one by one or in groups holding hands. Some plunge veterans ran in and out without flinching and commented on how much easier this year was. Newer participants ran out of the water screaming and cursing how cold the water was.
The event, hosted by the Wellington Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 2051, allows guests to take the plunge for free while donating to a different charitable cause each year. For three years, it has taken place at a Pitts Road property owned by Eagles member James Martin.
The Polar Plunge was founded by Eagles members Duane Eaton and Chris Starbuck as a way to support a worthwhile cause. This year, it raised money for Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurogenetic disorder that occurs in 1 in 15,000 live births, according to www.angelman.org. It is often misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy or autism spectrum. Children found to have the syndrome experience development delay, lack of speech, seizures and walking/balance disorders.
The idea for supporting the cause came from Nick Senghas, and Eaton and Starbuck agreed that the Angelman Syndrome Foundation was definitely something worth raising money for. The founders said it’s been amazing so many people have taken the plunge; the first year only about 10 participated.
“It’s just something to do to raise money, and that’s what the Eagles is about, helping others out,” Eaton said. “And that’s the Eagles itself, just people helping people and its something that we’ve put together to help the community out.”
David Ramos and fellow members of the Lorain County running group Team Riot, were invited to take the plunge by Martin, who also is a Team Riot member. Ramos said the water wasn’t too bad, but it still was rough.
“I thought it was going to be a whole lot colder, but once I jumped in and went headfirst, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to get out,’” he said.
At the time of the plunge, Starbuck said, the water temperature was in the low 30s. In years before, they’ve needed to break thick ice from the pond so people could get into the water.
After the plunge, people warmed up by a bonfire near the pond or in a barn further up the trail.
Cindi Jackson and Nick Senghas appreciated everyone for participating and raising money to help the foundation that promotes research on and raises awareness of her daughter’s condition.
“It’s really positive. It’s amazing to see so many people here supporting Zoey and the cause,” Cindi Jackson said.