Beaumont takes the 'plunge' for Special Olympics
On Saturday March 10, Beaumont Police and Police Explorers plunged into a freezing lake to raise money for Special Olympics.
Their hands and feet went numb for a moment, but their spirits remained high at the first annual Big Bear Lake Polar Plunge. The plungers vowed to take a dip next year for such a worthy cause.
And since plunging was his idea, Police Chief Frank Coe was first into the 34-degree water.
"We all went under together, 'One, two, three' and dunked our heads," Coe said. "It was a full plunge."
Freezin' for a Reason
By the time Beaumont's 11 volunteers had finished up their dip and enjoyed a soak in a waiting hot tub on the beach, they had raised about $1,500 for Special Olympics. Those taking the plunge were asked to raise at least $50 through pledges from family, friends and co-workers. More than 100 plungers dressed up in costumes came from throughout Southern California and across the Inland Empire to take part in Saturday's event.
About $22,000 was raised over the weekend and donations were still coming in, officials said. Proceeds help sponsor year-round Special Olympics sports training programs and athletic competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the Inland Empire.
"It just took a few seconds in the chilly water for plungers to discover why we call this event, 'Freezin' for a Reason,'" said Abbey Leffler, Southern California regional director for Special Olympics.
Inspiring global messenger
Beaumont Police Commander Greg Fagan, like so many others at the event, was inspired by the example and the words of Special Olympics Global Messenger Amanda Drexler. She represents the Inland Empire and travels the region giving speeches and accepting donations to Special Olympics.
Drexler, a medal winner at the state Special Olympics games in Long Beach, plays bocce ball, soccer, and likes to bowl. Her neighbors in Yucaipa formed a polar plunge team and raised $3,700 in her honor.
"Thank you for coming and supporting our Polar Plunge," she told the crowd during her welcome speech. Drexler joined those waiting on the beach to cheer on the plungers as they emerged from the water and reached for their towels.
Ready to plunge
Fagan often wears a wet suit while surfing at Pismo Beach. On Saturday, he eyed the lake water and nearby firefighters who wore 'dry suits' just in case they had to rescue someone. (A dry suit has thermal insulation to protect against frigid waters.)
"If they're wearing that kind of gear, you know it’s cold," Fagan said.
After drying off and warming up, the police commander took a moment to reflect on his plunge into a mountain lake at an elevation of about 7,000 feet.
"You just run and jump and its shocking initially," Fagan said. "And the longer you stay in, the more it starts burning. Your fingers and toes start going numb."
Fagan looked down at his scraped big toes.
"I never felt that until I got out of the hot tub," he said.
But undeterred, Fagan added, "If they said, 'Hey, let’s do it again,' I would go right now. Special Olympics is such a great cause."
Beaumont: Polar Plungers
Chief Frank Coe and his daughter Samantha
Commander Greg Fagan
Corporal John Combado
Sergeant Josh Ellsworth
Officer Stephan Bronstrup
Animal Care Officer Chris Harwood
Editor's Note: At 11:55 a.m. March 10, just before the noontime plunge, air temperature was measured about a mile east of Swim Beach at Big Bear City Airport, where it was at 54 degrees Fahrenheit, National Weather Service meteorologist James Thomas said.
Regardless of air temperature, 34-degree water is cold enough to trigger panic, shock, and a series of body changes known as the mammalian diving reflex, according to the U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force Cold Water Survival web page. Cold water robs the body's heat 32 times faster than cold air, and exhaustion or unconsciousness can set in after 15 to 30 minutes in water that is 32.5 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to USSAR.