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Northlanders Brave the Cold for Polar Bear Plunge

Posted at: 02/16/2013 6:11 PM
Updated at: 02/16/2013 6:15 PM
By: Maarja Anderson
manderson@wdio.com

Hundreds of Northlanders took the plunge into Lake Superior Saturday for the 12th annual Polar Bear Plunge in Duluth.

It was 18 degrees outside but that didn't stop nearly 1,200 Northlanders from jumping into the icy water for a good cause. The first to take the plunge was Sgt. Gayle Holton of the Duluth Police Department.

"It's officially cold, it took my breath away...I think I'll do it again!" said Sgt. Holton after his jump.

Over the past year teams have been raising money for the Special Olympics. This year, those funds are nearing $200,000 raised.

"It's one minute of pain...We have heaters, we have heated tents. You warm up pretty quickly and we have medical staff standing-by," said organizer with the Duluth Police Department, Todd Kuusisto.

The St. Louis County Rescue Team was in the icy water all afternoon breaking up the ice shelf for participants. To help take the participants' minds off of the cold, there was a costume contest before the jump at Grandma's Sports Garden.

"We are dressed up as '80s icons, I'm Peg Bundy," said Gena Saarberg Jorgensen. "We're here to support Special Olympics and have a lot of fun."

Saarberg Jorgensen and her team of SAAPI employees raised $1,200 this year.

"This is our third year and we're known as "That Crazy C Shift." We're always doing something kind of nutty," said Saarberg Jorgensen.

She said when it's cold, you can only do one thing, "just jump and hope for the best."

Excluding 2013, the Polar Bear Plunge in Duluth has raised nearly $800,000 for the Special Olympics. As of Saturday morning, they had raised $122,000 this year, but organizers said they will receive many more donations over the next few days.