By Andy McKeever
12:30PM / Sunday, March 31, 2019
In groups no larger than 10, some 70 people jump into the cold water on Sunday. More photos from the plunge can be seen here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Some 70 people braved the icy cold water Sunday morning to raise $25,000 for the Special Olympics.
The Polar Plunge put on by the local branch of Law Enforcement Torch Run drew a crowd to Bousquet to jump into a pool of ice cold water in the rain. Organizers of the annual event had hoped to raise $15,000 but instead hit the $25,000 mark.
"It goes to our athletes right here in Berkshire County. It goes to athletic programs. It goes toward uniform and travel," organizer John Bassi said.
"It defrays all costs for our athletes. The athletes and their families don't have to pay for a thing. That's the wonderful thing about Special Olympics."
It is the first year the event was held at Bousquet. And that was a last-minute decision. According to organizer Darren Derby, the event had been moved to the end of March so Onota Lake wouldn't be frozen over, making the event safer and reducing the need to cut through the ice. But, as of last week, the lake was still frozen. In just a few days, Bousquet made accommodations to move it there.
"We were able to put this together in four days. They did a ton of work to get this set up for us," Bassi said.
Bassi said the move worked out better, praising the effort of Bousquet staff for getting it ready, and that the event will likely be held there in the future.
The plunge has been moving in dates, water, and the number of participants. One year the conditions of the lake led to the organizers bringing in a pool on the shoreline and, in another, subzero temperatures kept the crowd at home.
"It's gone up and down. The first year was 30 people, the next year 200 people. And then because of weather in February, it tanked numbers-wise because it was subzero temperature," Derby said.
Last year the event was moved to closer to Thanksgiving, dubbed a "Poultry Plunge" and a 24-hour super plunge was added. About a dozen participants did a plunge every hour for 24 hours, which became one of the bigger drivers of the fundraising.
"Ultimately it was due to the success of the super plunge," Derby said.
This year's plunge was dedicated to two longtime supporters of Special Olympics, Megan Doyle and Mary Wilk.
"We did it in honor of them. It was a nice little tribute to them," Derby said.
Bassi said the event brought plungers from all over New England. He said the group of super plungers grew from last year and he expects that to continue in the future.
"It's a lot of fun and it is for a great cause," Bassi said.