Chilly jump raises cold cash

Standing shirtless and in shorts in the snow next to Canoe Lake Sunday afternoon, Penn State Altoona freshman Patrick Brame provided compelling testimony about how cold it felt when he jumped through a hole in the ice a few minutes earlier.

“I’m warm now,” he said.

As one of about 85 participants in the Penn State Altoona Alumni Society’s first Winter Plunge fundraiser for the society’s scholarship program and the university’s THON fundraiser, Brame experienced firsthand how cold water sucks heat from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature.

The water was 33.5 degrees, said park ranger Allen Chislow, who was standing on the ice near the hole cut with chain saws, as self-committed victims walked gingerly – or with stolid fatalism – to the edge and jumped.

Waiting there like creatures of the deep were red-suited members of the Geeseytown Community Fire Company, who helped plungers go quickly up a ladder propped against the edge of the hole.

One girl emerged saying “Oh my God!”

“You should look at their faces,” Chislow said, recalling the panic expressed by one plunger.

For sophomore Emily Wolz, it wasn’t so bad in the water.

But when she got out, she was numb.

“Pins and needles,” she said.

A few minutes later, she was draped in a towel and clutching a stuffed polar bear.

She has an affinity for polar bears, and that “kind of drew me in,” she said.

The plunge lasted about 15 seconds for most participants.

And the trip to the lake from campus was brief.

The economy of effort attracted sophomore Jenny Wilde.

It afforded her a way to help the vaunted THON despite a busy schedule, she said.

Each plunger contributed at least $50.

They got a “Winter Plunge” sweat shirt for their pain.

Those who contributed without jumping got a “Too Chicken to Plunge” T-shirt.

It was “amazing” that so many took part, said college Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry.

“It’s a testament to how much they care,” she said.

Corporate sponsorships alone generated about $10,000 for the event, Bechtel-Wherry said.

All participants signed a liability release, Chislow said.

The event organizers signed a liability release with the state, said Park Superintendent Andy St. John.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is pleased to be associated with THON and the university, he said.

“Great fun,” Bechtel-Wherry said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.