Participants in Polar Bear Plunge raise money for Special Olympics

Heather Klunkle

Nearly 400 people braved the cold waters of Lake Erie at Geneva State Park Saturday to raise money for Special Olympics by participating in the Polar Bear Plunge.

Chrissy Motz, sophomore, was among the many who stepped foot into the freezing water. This is Motz’s fourth plunge since the age of 16. This year, she participated in the super plunge, which required her to go into the water once per hour from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Workers had to dig through 8 feet of ice to cut a hole for the event. Chandra Brode, event coordinator for the Polar Plunge, said this year’s event was much safer than last year’s, when participants plunged into 5-foot waves.

Chrissy enjoys participating in the plunge every year. She said this year she wanted to raise $1,500, but exceeded her goal and raised $3,000.

“It is one of the fun things for Special Olympics,” she said. “It helps people with disabilities to participate in sports.”

People from all different areas, high school students, law enforcement workers and Special Olympic athletes gathered to raise money and awareness. Some participants even dressed up in costume to plunge.

“People get creative with it,” Brode said. “It’s just fun. It is kind of a crazy thing for people to jump in the lake in February, but we have a lot of people that get inspired by it.”

Chrissy had support from her family during her plunge. Her mother, Fran Motz, said Chrissy is always happy and she likes to make other people happy.

“Chrissy really believes in Special Olympics,” Fran Motz said. “She sees what it has done for her and for other athletes like herself to be able to participate as normal kids would be.”

Her father, Gary Motz plunged for the first time.

“Chrissy talked me into doing it,” Gary said. “I figured I’d try it once to see what it is like and see what she goes through.”

Gary said he is proud of his daughter and what she accomplishes. He said he knows she always tries her best in everything she does.

“She amazes me how she keeps her spirits up,” He said. “She’s always excited and happy with what she is doing. She has a good time and gets to meet a lot of good people out of it.”

Chrissy decided to try out the Polar Bear Plunge herself after watching retired Sgt. John Bodnar of Streetsboro Police Department take part in them.

“We met when I first started doing super plunge,” Bodnar said. “Her family happened to live in the city where I worked and saw in the paper I was doing the plunge. From then on, we built a friendship.”

Chrissy said it doesn’t matter the age of a person with a disability; they can still have fun.

“People say we can’t do certain things, but we can prove them wrong.” Motz said.

The event raised more than $90,000 and funds are still coming in online.

Click here to learn more about Special Olympics activities in Ohio.

Contact Heather Kunkle at [email protected].