GREENSBORO — With the temperature hovering near freezing, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office believes it had a true polar plunge on Saturday.
“It’s cold,” Ray Smith, a Pleasant Garden firefighter, said after his plunge. “Very cold.”
The High Point Police Department will host its second annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge on Feb. 7 to raise money for the North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Smith was among 56 people who participated in the 15th annual Guilford County Sheriff’s Office Polar Plunge held at Wet ’n Wild Emerald Pointe, 3910 S. Holden Road.
The event raises money for Special Olympics North Carolina. Guilford County’s is among the leading money-raising events in the state every year, said Leslie Moyar, development director, Law Enforcement Torch Run Special Olympics North Carolina.
“This is a big fundraising event all over the state,” Moyar said. “We hold 30 to 40 polar plunges this time of year.”
The events raise about $100,000 for Special Olympics North Carolina annually, Moyar said.
This year’s Guilford County plunge raised $18,079, organizers said.
“This one is always the top fundraiser,” Moyar said. “The money benefits over 40,000 athletes in the state.”
Cold weather may have affected how many people participated in this year’s event, said sheriff’s office Master Cpl. Cindy Martin. The event usually attracts about 250 jumpers.
“It’s a little less than we normally have,” Martin said.
Emerald Pointe is closed for the winter, with all its pools drained, Martin said. But on Wednesday, staff re-filled the pools. They also cleared the parking areas and walkways of snow Thursday.
Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity at UNC-Greensboro was among the most successful fundraisers for this year’s event, raising $2,000, fraternity member Jeff Steed said before the plunge. The team of men from the fraternity wore varied costumes — Santa Claus, a leprechaun and a tourist among them. Their team took home the award for best team costumes. A team of women dressed as beauty pageant contestants was recognized as well.
Participants said they had strategies for the event.
Garrett Gregory, a teacher at Southwest Middle School, said his strategy was to wear as little as possible, so he could change into dry clothes quickly after he jumped in the water.
“My plan is not to freeze,” Gregory said.
“You want to wear what you can get out of quickly,” said Matthew Pugh. “Don’t hesitate. Just jump.”
The longer you think about it, the harder it becomes to take the plunge, Pugh said.
As the time for the cold dip neared, some participants’ feet suddenly chilled.
“It sounded really good a few weeks ago,” said 17-year-old Elizabeth Cheney. “It’s going to be really cold. It’ll still be fun.”
Although many of the participants invested a lot of time getting into costumes for the icy plunge, they didn’t spend long running from the pool to a nearby a dressing room where they could change into warm, dry clothes.