UB students and faculty, along with other individuals from all over Western New York, threw on their wetsuits and bikinis and plunged into the freezing Hamburg Town Beach water on Lake Erie on Saturday for the annual Polar Plunge.
The Polar Plunge, which showcases a fun and different way of fundraising, raises money for the Special Olympics each year. Individuals were encouraged to log on to the Special Olympics website and become members of "Team UB," a creation of the Student Leadership division, where participants were then able to set up their own fundraising pages. UB also provided free transportation to all participants who registered on the Special Olympics website as a part of Team UB.
Although the event did not include a fee for participation, people were asked to raise a minimum of $25 each to donate to the cause. Every $300 donated would pay for one Special Olympics athlete to participate in a full year of events.
Additionally, every individual who raised at least $100 received the official Special Olympics Polar Plunge sweatshirt and was eligible for more prizes as more money was raised.
Prior to the plunge, Team UB held an informational meeting for those interested in attending the event on Friday at noon in the Student Union. The meeting outlined what students should expect going into the event and what they should bring.
At the plunge, there were large tents filled with numerous heaters to keep the participants warm, as many were ready to plunge into the freezing waters over an hour before the event officially began. Free pizza and hot chocolate were also supplied.
Cassandra Lavo, a sophomore communication major who attended Polar Plunge on Saturday, highly recommends the event to other students and plans on attending next year.
"Honestly, I could not stop laughing and thinking how crazy it was that I was jumping into freezing cold water, but everyone around me was so into it so it made it really fun," Lavo said. "It's a fun way [to give to] a charity because you feel way more involved than just donating money. Personally, I raised $110."
Blaire Gavin, a sophomore accounting major, felt a sense of unity among being part of Team UB and plans on attending Polar Plunge next December as well.
"It was so great to see how far people would go to help one another. It was awesome to just run into the water with everyone from Team UB at the same time and chant, ‘We are UB,'" Gavin said. "It was really worth spending my Saturday there and I definitely encourage other students to take part in the event next year."
Many people recognize participating in the event as a major accomplishment aside from the donating and helping out a cause. With the freezing temperatures, several students felt a sense of pride knowing they survived the plunge.
"As soon as you get into the water it is so cold. My feet didn't go back to normal until I got back to my dorm room. The whole thing was totally worth it though," Lavo said.
Those who missed out on Polar Plunge 2010 will have 12 months to prepare to dive into Lake Erie's freezing cold waters at Polar Plunge 2011. For those who have any questions regarding the event or other Student Leadership activities on and off campus, contact Amy Wilson via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Student Life website at www.leadership.buffalo.edu/plunge.
Any information regarding the Special Olympics can be found on the website www.specialolympicsny.org.