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The big chill: People plunge into Lake Elmore for a good cause

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Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 10:00 am | Updated: 10:32 am, Mon Oct 15, 2012.

Lake Elmore is more suited for ice fishing than swimming this time of year, but about 100 people are expected to jump in on Saturday, Jan. 29, during the third annual Morrisville Rotary Polar Splash.

Participants raise money by asking their friends, relatives and employers to sponsor them. All the money raised will go to the Laraway Youth & Family Services capital campaign.

Polar splashes or plunges are popular fundraisers. One held in Burlington every winter raises thousands of dollars for the Special Olympics.

Last year, 77 people took the plunge in the Morrisville Rotary Polar Splash and raised $15,000 for Habitat for Humanity.

At its debut in 2009, the event drew 51 participants and put $7,000 into the United Way of Lamoille County’s transitional housing fund, which provides temporary housing and budget education for people in need.

This year’s splash is likely to draw more participants and raise more cash than in past years.

“Interest has been growing,” said splash organizer Tim Sargent, who’s president of the Rotary Club. “I get the feeling we’ll be bigger than last year. I’m predicting about 100 people.”

Laraway helps kids rebuild broken lives. Some have been removed from their parents’ custody, or from their public schools; they’re having problems adjusting to life.

Laraway is now moving to a 39-acre farm in Johnson, a picturesque location that will allow education and treatment programs to take advantage of life on a farm — from planting seeds to harvesting to processing produce for local food shelves, for sale to the community, and for meals for the kids and staff.

The splash starts at 11 a.m. behind the Elmore Town Hall, next to the Elmore Store. Organizers will cut a hole in the ice, which is usually 2 feet thick this time of year, so people can easily jump in — and clamber out — of the 33-degree water.

Sargent has taken the plunge every year since it started.

He’s found that jumping into the freezing water is easier than climbing out.

The temperature at past events has hovered around zero.

“Going in isn’t a problem at all,” Sargent said. “Getting out, if it’s a really cold day and the wind hits you, you get an ice-cream headache. Everything moves more slowly because your body is in shock.”

Still, “it’s not as bad as people think,” Sargent said.

About two-thirds of the splashers are on teams representing local businesses and organizations. Most choose a theme, and team members often wear costumes, ranging from Vikings to cowboys.

This year, the Rotary Club and Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce have started a contest to encourage teams to compete against each other to see who can raise the most money.

Businesses and organizations can sign up their teams on the Rotary Club’s website," target= "_blank">, or by sending an e-mail to Cindy Locke at

In addition to recognizing teams that raise the most money, awards will be given to teams with the best costumes and the most team spirit.

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