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Freezing temperatures to greet polar plungers this weekend

Thomas O'Neil-White

This weekend Woodlawn Beach in Hamburg is hosting the 13th annual Polar Plunge, an event that raises money for local Special Olympic athletes.

It is estimated 1,100 people will brave freezing temperatures Saturday, with a high temperature of 30 degrees in the forecast.

On Thursday morning dive teams from the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Troopers and the Town of Hamburg Police Department cleared debris from the beachhead.

New this year is Friday’s Super Plunge. Erica Raepple, the Development Director for Special Olympics New York, said the Super Plungers will plunge for 24 consecutive hours.

“Two crazy gentlemen that love Special Olympics are coming,” she said. “And they’re going to be jumping every hour.”

Despite Saturday’s temperature expected to be below freezing, Raepple said the cause is first and foremost on the minds of the participants.

Credit Thomas O'Neil-White
Erica Raepple

“We don’t charge our athletes to train or compete,” she said. “So it costs approximately $500 dollars to sponsor an athlete for an entire year.”

The money helps pay for expenses related to uniforms, sports equipment and travel. Raepple said they are hoping to sponsor 400 athletes in 2020.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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