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Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump

AGMC Orthopaedics Team at the Polar Bear Jump 2015

Chalk this up to one of the wildest things I’ve ever done: The Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump!
Now in its 12th year, the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump is the initiation into the Polar Bear Club, which consists of warm-hearted people willing to freeze their bodies to raise money to feed people and fight hunger! That’s right, like all of the off-the-wall challenges I get myself into, it’s all for charity. Every dollar that is donated to someone who signs up as a jumper provides four meals to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank (also the benefiting organization in the Selfless Elf 5K).
On Saturday, February 21, 2015, I joined a group of co-workers to “Go Polar” for the Foodbank. Our team was called “AGMC Orthopaedics” and it included doctors, residents, and other young professionals from the hospital and health system (I figured if medical professionals were on my team, I had safety on my side).
An aerial view of the event – courtesy of Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club
You may remember that last year, I took part in the Polar Plunge at Mosquito Lakein Cortland. The main difference between that event and this one was: the depth of the water! In the event last year, we simply had to run through freezing cold water that went up to our knees at its deepest. The Polar Bear Jump requires you to literally JUMP off of a dock into the freezing cold water of Turkeyfoot Lake! The entire lake is frozen with a thick layer of ice, so the event organizers had to carve out a special area for us to jump!
2015 carved in ice – courtesy of Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club
The weather at Portage Lakes (located in Summit County) was especially severe this week, with temperatures as low as -20 degrees below zero! By some miracle, the temperature on jump day was around 30-35 degrees (balmy!), but there was still a great deal of snowfall and accumulation, which made the roads pretty rough for traveling! This, coupled with a prior engagement I had to attend earlier in the day, caused me to get to Portage Lakes at approximately 2:15.
Our scheduled jump time was supposed to be 3:25, so I figured I had made it in enough time. However, for some reason, the event was WAY ahead of schedule. When I arrived, I called my friend and fellow jumper Ashley and she told me that our team was already in line to jump! I immediately ran to the line, threw my bags down, tore off my clothes (into my bathing suit), and joined my team for a group photo (they were easy to spot because many of them were wearing scrubs!).
Our team jumping in!
In the blink of an eye, we were making our way down the dock to the jumping platform, and just like that it was “bombs away” into the frigid water. I didn’t even have time to think, it was such a blur!! In retrospect, it was the best way to go, because my fear wasn’t able to set in, and I didn’t have to wait around in the cold for an hour leading up to my jump.
After making a quick swim to the ladder, I ran to the men’s heated changing tent and got myself dry and warm. I honestly was barely bothered by the cold (maybe I was in shock or had lots of adrenaline). I then worked backwards and hung out with the group, had a beer, took some photos, and watched other jumpers.
It was great seeing the hilarious costumes: superheroes, pirates, Vikings, chickens, and more. I even saw my friend Eric jump in while wearing a full business suit. The dedication was unreal. Over 700 people jumped this year, and collectively, we raised over $110,000 – more than any other year. Proud to say I contributed to that total, and that I am now an official member of the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Club!
See the shenanigans of the event thanks to WKYC, including our team in the water around the 3:00-3:15 mark (I am shown climbing out of the water on the ladder).

Portage Lake Polar Bear Jump

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