MASSENA A herd of moose was the first to wade into icy water at noon Saturday during the annual St. Lawrence Seaway Polar Plunge at Hawkins Point Visitors Center, raising money for athletes of Special Olympics New York.
The 12-member group of federal government employees representing Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and the Food and Drug Administration calls itself the Freezin Feds and plunges into the cold water wearing funny team hats each year. This year, the members were moose, all wearing a brown hat with antlers.
Every year weve been the top fundraiser, said Lindsey Glen, a Freezin Feds team member from Malone. This year, were just under $6,000 for our team, and we start months in advance doing bake sales and can drives.
Ms. Glen makes the hats for the team each year. She said the hats started out as a last-minute joke, but the children and athletes watching on the side loved them so much that she decided to continue the tradition each year. Every year we make something different thats a little goofy and over the top, she said.
The small boat launch by the center was packed with people running into and out of the frigid water, which was about 45 degrees.
Michelle A. Mumma, Schenectady, comes up every year to help organize the plunge and coordinate the day-of activities.
As much as this is a fundraising event, its also an awareness event, and the more people we can get here, the more people can learn about Special Olympics and why its so important to support them, she said.
Ms. Mumma said there were more than 200 participants this year, doubling the number of plungers since the event began five years ago.
All of the money raised here today is to support our athletes and to buy uniforms and transportation to all of our competitions, she said. We have over 61,000 athletes in New York state and we never charge them to train or compete in Special Olympics.
The second biggest group to raise money for the cause was the North Country Insurance Professionals, or Plungers, as they called their team.
The team had free hot dogs, chili, chips, cookies and drinks for participants.
This year, our team has grown to 11 members. We started out with only three or four, said Robin A. Miller, president of the club.
Lined up on the back of one of the team members car were 11 toilet plungers.
Thats our trademark; we each plunge with a plunger every year, Ms. Miller said.