Warm thoughts, bone-chilled bodies at Polar Bear Plunge | SierraSun.com

Warm thoughts, bone-chilled bodies at Polar Bear Plunge

Susan Wood, Sun News Service

They say South Lake Tahoe people make up a hearty bunch. On Sunday, 60 of them proved that for charity by dipping into a chilly Lake Tahoe in varying degrees.Whether dunking a toe or their whole body in the 41-degree water, most who participated in the first Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for Special Olympics Northern California imagined the grin-and-bear-it experience at Ski Run Marina would be far worse.Across the lake, another Polar Bear Plunge took place for the 14th year in a row to celebrate the North Tahoe Snow Festival.South Lake Tahoe firefighter Kevin Shanahan, the youngest in the department at age 23, took the heat of his colleagues when he opted to go in the lake on a $300 donation. He did a handstand in the water.”It wasn’t too bad,” he said afterward, dripping wet from the plunge.A worker for the Tahoe Beach & Ski Club, Jennifer Marcellus, was surprised by what she was able to endure. Marcellus designed her skeleton costume to illustrate her frozen-to-the-bone feeling with her husband, John, cheering her on.”I don’t even usually go in the lake. But it’s a good cause,” she said. Marcellus raised $456 for the Special Olympics, an organization that benefits 1 million people with disabilities. The event’s minimum donation was $75.After coming out of recent surgery, she considered the lake plunge liberating.Marcellus wasn’t the only woman discovering the novelty of the experience.Lacey McKinney represented one in six people from Coldwell Banker who took the plunge.”I never go in the winter,” she said.Her dripping hair didn’t deter her from moving on to more cold activities that day. She had made plans to go snowboarding.City Councilwoman Kathay Lovell stuck her foot in the water while her dog made the plunge.The Special Olympics chapter representatives were pleased with the turnout of the event.”We’re ecstatic. We thought we’d raise $2,500,” Laurie Gagnan said.The event raised close to $12,000 for Team Tahoe and doubled the number of participants organizers thought they’d sign up.Celebrity Winterfest, a Special Olympics event, runs March 5-7 at Heavenly Mountain Resort. Opening day for the Special Olympics is scheduled March 8 at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.