Lake Norman & Mooresville

Chilling plunge nets $5,000 for YMCA reading program

Members of Lauren Swindle’s YMCA Functional Training Class, who won for the largest group, and was the first wave to plunge, react to the cold water.
Members of Lauren Swindle’s YMCA Functional Training Class, who won for the largest group, and was the first wave to plunge, react to the cold water. Marty Price

The swimmers – or plungers as they like to be called – who participated in the fifth annual Lake Norman YMCA Polar Plunge on Feb. 20 probably expected that, with the air temperature in the upper 50s, the dip in the lake would be less harsh.

However, the water temperatures hovered around 48 degrees. And the shock of the cold water was still there.

Billie Gale of Mooresville has won the crown as leading fundraiser the past three years. This year she raised $1,600 for the Y reader program, again earning her the title of Polar Plunge Queen.

“I am going to retire after this year, now that I have won my triple crown,” she said.

Ben Pinegar, executive director of the Lake Norman YMCA, said the Y reader program is a six-week program designed to combat summer learning loss for students reading below grade level. The YMCA partnered with Charlotte Mecklenburg County Schools to provide the program.

“Polar Plunge is a fun event and people really get excited about it,” Pinegar said.

Each plunger is asked to donate $25 to participate but some, like Gale, seek sponsors and donations.

Gale, 67, led the line for the costume contest. She was dressed as a female polar bear, wearing a leopard print bikini. After losing the costume contest to Huntersville resident Judy Dial and Cornelius resident Clark Cook, who were dressed as a penguin couple, Gale changed into a sequined dress, keeping the polar bear head for the plunge.

Eighty plungers, in waves of 15 or more at a time, ran into the lake behind the YMCA in Cornelius. Some got only parts of their bodies wet while others dove in.

Jordan Kologe, 32, associate pastor at the Church of the Good Shepherd, which meets at the YMCA, brought seven members of the their youth group, each experiencing their first plunge.

“It was a blast and so much fun to do together,” Kologe said. He also said when his head went under the water, “I was shocked and my head felt numb.”

To Huntersville resident Emma Neely-Gonda, 6, it was a quick adventure. She had enjoyed it last year and was ready to go again. Running out to where the water met her chest she quickly returned, shouting “Woo hoo.”

Emma said she enjoyed it so much she is already planning on making a little mermaid costume for next year. After their dip, the plungers could warm up next to a hot fire, make s’mores, have a bowl of hot soup or a cup of hot chocolate, thanks to the donations by local businesses.

Event organizer Ame Guy, said about 130 people were on hand for the plunge and they met their goal, raising $5,000.

Marty Price is a freelance writer: martyprice53@gmail.com

Learn more

For information on the Y Readers program: www.ymcacharlotte.org/yreaders

Lake Norman YMCA: www.ymcacharlotte.org/branches/lakenorman/ln.aspx

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