RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Wearing bow ties, swim trunks and little else, a group of 12 guys jumped into the cold waters of Lake Carolina on Saturday as part of the annual Polar Bear Plunge.
The group called themselves the ChippenWhales, and they alone raised more than $2,000 for Children’s Charities of the Midlands, the beneficiary of the event that usually falls on a chiller day.
The bow ties didn’t help much in keeping them warm, said Gary Matthews, a Lake Carolina resident.
Earlier in the week when temperatures were below freezing, the guys were a little worried about their upcoming swim.
“We were panicking,” Matthews said.
But on Saturday, temperatures were in the 60s with a wind that made the dripping participants cooler.
Tim Wilson and his three kids jumped into the into the lake together and then quickly got back out.
Wilson’s daughter Meg, 13, said the rush was worth it, because afterward you felt like you did something great.
“You feel so alive once you get out of the water,” her dad said.
Becky Wilson, the kids’ mom and Tim Wilson’s wife, did not jump.
“I’m the picture taker,” she said.
To warm up her children and husband later on, the family goes home and turns on the fireplace, she said.
Shawn Shealy braved the plunge in a Speedo-style swimsuit and was part of the team called “Freezing Assets.”
Shealy said people expect him to really freeze because of his outfit choice, but that’s not the case.
“When you get out, the less you have on, the better,” he said.
Pierre Brunache emceed the event and served as DJ. He said he chose high energy tunes to keep the jumpers’ blood pumping.
“I respect people who can do that, because I would never do it,” he said.
Even those who did not participate got wet, because the morning’s rain sprinkled spectators.
Sabrina Rogers ventured out into the weather to watch the action with her daughter Alaina, who is about to turn 2. Alaina ate a polar bear-shaped cookie and sported purple rain boots.
Rogers said she is originally from Seattle, so the gloomy, damp weather seemed normal – but it was a little warm for a “polar bear plunge.” With the temperatures in the 60s and rain, that sounded more like a summer dip in the lake, she said.
Still, when Rogers asked Alaina if she wanted to go swimming, the youngster quickly responded.