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Frigid fundraiser raises over a quarter million dollars

by Margaret Stewart - Copy Editor
Wed, Feb 13th 2019 11:00 am
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Hundreds of people flocked to Charlotte Beach in Irondequoit, New York to jump into frozen Lake Ontario for the 19th annual Polar Plunge. The event, held on Sunday, Feb. 10, marked the largest plunge held in New York State and attracted guests such as Monroe County Mayor, Cheryl Dinolofo, Monroe County Sheriff, Todd Baxter, as well as Brockport Chief of Police, Mark Cuzzupoli.

Early risers hit the registration table long before doors opened at 9 a.m. The event attracted people from all across the country. Chris Bianchi, a Chili native, dressed as Venom to compete in the costume part of the event. 

“I was supposed to be here at 10 a.m., but my costume took two hours to dry,” Bianchi said.

His partner in crime, Eric Shoen-ukre, donned a Spider-Man costume after making the trip from Boston, Massachusetts  to participate in the 2019 Polar Plunge. Shoen-ukre and Bianchi are no strangers to the event as they have been to others in the past.

“We both have been doing country-wide plunges for the last 11 years,” Shoen-ukre said.

Costumes are an integral part of the plunging process and allow each person to express their own style. While there were two-man teams like Shoen-ukre and Bianchi, there were teams with upwards of 15 people on them like “Ranger Rocks,” the team assembled by Spencerport Central School District.

Spencerport wasn’t the only district who showed up with a big crowd. The largest group of participants came from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). With over 100 participants, the group from RIT raised $4,558 for the Special Olympics.

While RIT had the largest group, the team “Warrior Factory,” raised the largest amount. The only thing that beat their $12,510, was the donation from the annual presenting sponsor. This year, John Gizzi and the Gizzi family and their companies gifted $20,000 to Stacey Hengsterman, the CEO of Special Olympics New York.

Last year, Special Olympics New York raised approximately $250,000 which they used to help 66,835 athletes across New York State compete and train year round. The physical activity promotes a healthy and happy lifestyle that many people take for granted.

This year, about a half hour before the plunge was to take place, the numbers were still rolling in, but they had already passed the $250,000 mark.

The College at Brockport was represented by members of the Brockport Student Government (BSG) as well as a group of Residential Assistants (RAs). By noon on Sunday, BSG had raised approximately $2,000 for the cause. 

Students Chitsatt Myothant, Allie Magoulas, Maddie Petherick, Sarah Martelle and Jacob Shea all took the plunge into icy Ontario, some for the first time.

“It is a great team exercise,” Myothant said. “I loved the team spirit.” 

For Martelle, it was “everyone coming together.” 

Shea agreed, saying the “dancing and getting hype before the plunge” was his favorite part. 

The pre-plunge party lasted from 9 a.m. until moments before the actual plunge took place. The party section was hosted by 98 PXY DJs Whitney Young and Cory James. As they pulled $1,000 in donations, James joined the rest of the participants in their plunge. 

During the pre-plunge party, in addition to the concessions and merchandise that people could purchase, observers and participants had the opportunity to enter a raffle. Special Olympics New York raffled off a flat screen TV, a grill and a tool chest.

 

 

mstew7@brockport.edu | @margotpolo96