CHIPPEWA LAKE — On Saturday, John Marinelli of Brunswick became one with the frigid Chippewa Lake during the eighth annual Polar Bear Jump and 5K Run-Walk organized by the Chippewa Lake Lions Club.
It was only the second time that the 51-year-old Marinelli leaped into icy waters for charity. One year, he took part in the Cleveland Polar Bear Plunge. He said he does it to stay young, in mind and body.
“We’re not getting any younger,” Marinelli said. “What better way to prove your youth than to do something stupid?”
More than 190 jumpers participated in Saturday’s plunge at Chippewa Lake, the best turnout ever for the event. With money still coming in Saturday night, organizers expected to raise more than $25,000.
“The last two years we brought in a little more than $20,000 each year, so this is a big breakthrough for us,” said jump Chairman Alan Robbins, also known as chief polar bear.
The money came from $30 registration fees, sponsorships of jumpers and other donations. Funds this year will benefit the Society for Handicapped Citizens of Medina County, the Crosse Point Community Church Meal Program in Chippewa Lake, the Lafayette Township Fire Department, the Chippewa Church on the Lake United Methodist Church Food Pantry and the Lions Club.
The plunge included a Quest for the Best Jumper, a competition among four veteran Chippewa Lake jumpers — Jim Martella, LeeAnn Pavlovicz, Robbins and Brad Winter — to raise the most money. Martella won by bringing in more than $8,000.
A steady rain Saturday ensured that jumpers were saturated even before they took the plunge. Then again, that’s the idea.
“It’s always bad weather,” Robbins said. “We just never know what kind of bad it’s going to be.”
Robbins said the Lions picked this week of January for the Polar Bear Jump because it’s the coldest time of the year. They’ve experienced subzero temperatures, high winds and snow in past jumps.
“Also, there’s nothing else going on now,” Robbins said. “We’re between the football conference championships and the Super Bowl, so we take advantage of the dead time.”
At the plunge, local firefighters received training they need in cold-water rescues by helping jumpers in and out of the water. Firefighters also helped plan the event, and nearly 100 volunteers blocked roads and registered jumpers, runners and walkers.
The 5K Run-Walk started at noon and proceeded north along Beachside Boulevard and Lee Lore Drive, turned west on Chippewa Road and curved back to the lake.
Then jumpers in colorful costumers gathered on the beach at about 1:15 p.m. In pairs and in groups they walked about 25 feet onto the frozen lake — where organizers had chopped a hole in the ice — and jumped in.
They stayed in the water only a few seconds, but it was enough to leave smiles on their faces as they walked back toward the beach.
Messages may be left for Bob Sandrick at (330) 721-4060.