"Polar bears" celebrate 2013 by taking the plunge - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

"Polar bears" celebrate 2013 by taking the plunge

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Nearly three hundred people braved the chilly waters of the Maumee River in Waterville this New Year's Day for the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

The water was warmer than the air.  It was 24 degrees outside at Memorial Park at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.  The water, according to the Waterville Fire Chief, was 34 degrees.

 "Cold!" says Deitra Hickey as she walks out of the river.

"I was already sick so I figured I didn't have anything to lose," says her husband John Hickey.

They took a dip as part of the 84th annual Polar Bear Plunge.

 "It was cold, really cold," says 11-year-old Eryn Blair of Whitehouse. This is her second year taking the plunge and she says she does it "for the rush."

It's a tradition that began back in 1929 by the late Herb Mericle.

"He was doing this to kind of break up the monotony of winter and then later on in life when he married his wife, he started going in at 2:30 because that's the time they got married," says Mike Hill, the event organizer.

"His son used to ride with us and the last year Herbie went, I kneeled down with him, told him I'd do it as long as my body would let me," says Keith Baldwin, who marked his 29th year doing the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year's Day.

Catherine Gruenwald of Waterville crossed the polar plunge off her bucket list last year.  This year she's helping her son and his friends.

"I've got the towels and the blankets," says Gruenwald.  "I'm the equipment mom."

Two guys who are home on leave from their military service waded into the water.

"I can't feel my toes right now. I hope they get feeling in a little bit," says Ryan Horner who is from Perrysburg and serves in the Air Force. "It wasn't too bad."

"This was something that was always on my bucket list and I accomplished it," says Aaron Newman who is from Toledo and serves in the Navy. 

These brave people call the swim colder than last year but just as exhilarating.  They also consider it a symbolic start to 2013.

"It is kind of cleansing to bring on a fresh year," says Michael Wheating.

Folks in Northwood also took the plunge, taking part in "Fred's Second Annual Polar Bear Plunge" with proceeds going to children and staff and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

They say bearing the cold temperatures for a good cause is a great way to kick off 2013. More than $1,000 was raised during the event.

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