Warm hearts heat frigid lake

Ben Jordan

Hundreds of people will take the plunge at Portage Lakes State Park Saturday for the Ninth Annual Polar Bear Jump.

For the past nine years the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club has hosted this chilly event to raise donations for cancer-related charities. This year the proceeds will go toward Stewart’s Caring Place, Camp Quality Ohio and the American Cancer Society. The club raised more than $40,000 for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank last year.

Participants must arrive at the park by 12:30 p.m. Saturday to register. The jump begins at 2 p.m.

Lindsay Nagy did the jump last year, and is now volunteering to get more people from Kent to attend.

“I’m from the Portage Lakes area, and I know the people who organize it,” Nagy said. “I told them that I would try and help them get more Kent State students involved because many Akron Students go. A lot of fraternities and sororities participated last year, too.”

Kelly and Heather Pariso founded the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club. Nagy said the husband and wife team live on the lakes and started the event. Paramedics and heated changing tents will be available to keep participants safe from the cold.

Jumpers pay a minimum $25 donation to jump. They can also give more by being sponsored by friends and family. She said the event raised $50,000 two years ago.

“Participants have a pledge form,” Nagy said. “And you go around and ask, ‘Would you like to donate to my jump?’ and every person who donates chooses (to) which charity their money goes. I raised $225 last year … every little bit helps.”

In previous years, the lake freezes and participants jump into a large hole in the ice. Nagy said this year people will jump off the end of a 60-foot floating dock.

“Afterwards there’s usually a party provided by a local restaurant. Last year we went and had a dinner for free at the Old Harbor Inn in Akron.”

Nagy said not everyone jumps, and spectators come for a good time. There are also food, drinks, T-shirts for sale and a raffle.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Nagy said. “You can tailgate before if you want and it’s just a fun, positive environment because everyone’s there for a good cause.”

Contact Ben Jordan at [email protected].