Ice, snow braved for good cause

At 78 years old, Dan Miller, of Muncy, had waited long enough.

Checking the icy plunge off his “bucket list,” he said, “Let’s do it,” and submerged himself in the ice-covered water of the Susquehanna River.

About 60 others stepped up to the challenge and dove into the river during the annual polar bear plunge at Haywood’s on the Water, 610 Antler Lane, Saturday.

“It was colder than cold,” Miller said walking out of the river. “It’s like jumping into a freezer.”

All proceeds from the event went to South Williamsport Little League and Andrew’s Special Kids Foundation.

Like Miller, Regina Spiegel, of Newberry, had never participated in the event before and admitted that she was a little hesitant before going in.

“I’ve never done this before. I’m nervous,” she said.

When asked why he wanted to take part is such an extreme challenge, Miller said he wasn’t sure.

“I’m not sure. I guess I’m just a little goofy,” he said.

But for those experienced plungers, having done it before doesn’t stop the nerves. It only amplifies them.

“It’s worse when you know what to expect,” said Denise Dieter, who was dressed as queen of the plunge.

Marcus Kohl, who has participated in a similar event in Harrisburg, agreed.

“Knowing how ridiculous it’s going to be is worse,” he said while trying to get warm next to a fire.

But before anyone took a step into the river, volunteers had to break a hole in the ice as it was completely frozen over. John Engel, treasurer of South Williamsport Little League, said the ice was about 4 inches thick Friday night when he was breaking it up. It again needed to be broken up Saturday morning as another inch had formed.

“I got a decent hole (cut in the ice). There’s already a thin layer there from this morning,” Engel said.

Between the two days, Engel estimated it took about three hours to break up the ice. And with snow the day before, Engel thinks the conditions attracted more people than it discouraged.

“It’s a true polar bear plunge now,” he said. “The only thing we need is a polar bear.”

And participants enjoyed their time in the water.

“It’s fun. It’s exhilarating,” said Samantha Kneedler, who went in with her fiance Brent Wheeland.

Kohl, who donned a speedo for his plunge, said the less clothes, the better. Kneedler agreed saying afterwards you don’t want to drag wet clothes around.

And among the hesitant, experienced and surprised were Chris Young, Scott Kitner and Brent Winder, or Montgomery. Covered by nothing but superhero underwear and masks, the three said they were “Freezin’ for a reason.”

“Go big or go home,” Winder said.

Young said when they heard about the event and what the money was going towards, they wanted to participate. Originally, Winder said, they were going to dress as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but then decided on Superman, Batman and Iron Man.

And while most said it was cold after getting out, the superhero group said, “It wasn’t bad.”

“This definitely started a tradition,” Winder said.

As for Miller, he was glad it was over, but isn’t ruling out a return to the icy waters.

“If I’m healthy, I might do it again next year,” he said.