SILVER CREEK - You'd have to be crazy. But, you'd also have to have a warm and generous heart.
More than 140 people of all ages braced themselves and took a plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Erie on Sunday afternoon. The 10th Annual Silver Creek Polar Bear Swim for charity brought all that is good and fun about a fundraiser out as hundreds of people gathered to support the brave swimmers.
Held at the Firehouse on the Lake in Silver Creek, this year's events looks to have surpassed the $10,000 raised by the 68 swimmers last year.
Swimmers Jump in Lake Erie
"It has grown. And everybody tells us that it's going to get bigger and better every year," noted Pamela Forge, one of the originators of the event and co-chair along with Judi Kelly. "Last year we were so surprised because with the economy being as bad as it was, and we actually made more money - who would have thought that. I have a feeling it will be even bigger this year."
What began as an extreme idea to help raise money has grown into a large-scale event that now features Chinese auctions, 50/50 raffles, lives music with this years musical act being Trio from Dunkirk, live DJ Rock n' Roll to the Rescue, a Polar Bear Chili Cook-Off, and costume contest to name a few.
The charities benefiting from this year event were the Variety Kids Telethon, the Silver Creek Fire Department and Rescue Squad, the Sunset Bay Fire Department and the Silver Creek Food Pantry.
OBSERVER?Photos by Michael Rukavina
Top: More than 140 swimmers braced the frigid temperatures Sunday during the 10th annual Silver Creek Polar Bear Swim for Charity.
Above: The Blue Light Girls (Guys), Eric Jakubowski, Brian Pincoski and Tommy Rozumalski, all of Dunkirk, took first place in the costume contest.
"All of these events done throughout the year help in raising the total amount of money that Variety is able to donate to the Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, the Robert Warner MD Center, and a whole host of other children's charities," said Steve Podosek, Executive Producer of the Variety Kids Telethon.
Podosek, who jokingly said he has swam during the event in years past although be-it for 4.1 seconds, said the swimmers that jump in and participate have some of the warmest hearts in the world.
"First off you have to be a little crazy," Forge smiled. "Secondly, you have to have a really big heart. One of the gentleman, Jeff Majtyka from Blasdell, who has held the title of the swimmer who generated the most pledges, came in Sunday and said he had $1,150 and I told him I think he's going to get beat this year because a woman called me the other day and said she had already generated $1,300 in pledges. So he tells me he's going back outside to get more."
Majtyka was able to defend his crown, raising just over $1,300, with Denise Wolnik of Dunkirk coming in at $1,316, plus a few Chinese auction items as well. Whether it be friendly competition to raise the most money, or to win the best costume award, it was all in good fun and for some good causes.
"We always do some sort of costume," noted one of the Blue Light Girls (guys) Eric Jakubowski of Dunkirk. "I think after our fourth or fifth year they said they should have a costume contest, because we always dressed up. We were the Geico cavemen one year but we lost to the guys with the really good viking outfits with boats around them."
The Blue Light Girls were able to pull away from the competition this year which included Little Bo Peep and his sheep, the ice cube ladies, a few Wizard of Oz characters, and a host of other zany getups.
And as for the water, well ...
"This was the coldest," stated third-year swimmer Sonia Bacho of Sunset Bay, who played sheep to Les Ormsby (Little Bo Peep).
"I've done this for eight years and this had to be one of the coldest," Jakubowski said. "The wind chill had to be 10, if that. The water is about the same every year."
The air temperature with wind chill factored in was actually 11 degrees at the time of the plunge, with water temperatures around 30 degrees according to Silver Creek Firefighters who ensured everyone got in and out of the water safely. With the exception of a couple scrapes and bumps, everyone safely participated.
According to Forge, the total tally of donations raised will take place today.
"This is super," chili and costume judge, Silver Creek Mayor Kurt Lindstrom said of the event. "It's good not just for the community but good for the Food Bank, Emergency Squad and the Sunset Fire Department. This is super that Pam and Judi have been doing this for 10 years. They keep trying to talk us into going in, but County Legislator George Borrello is my new hero, he went in today."
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