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Over 200 people “plunge” into frigid water

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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 we’ve been the top fundraiser,” said Lindsey Glen, a Freezin’ Feds team member from Malone. “This year, we’re 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 that’s 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 49 degrees, a degree warmer than previous years.

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, it’s also an awareness event, and the more people we can get here, the more people can learn about Special Olympics and why it’s 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.

“That’s our trademark; we each plunge with a plunger every year,” Ms. Miller said.

Brian D. Coakley, a New York State Police trooper who spearheaded the effort to bring the event to Massena five years ago.

“Every year the people who come and do this in support of Special Olympics exceeds our expectations. We did better than we thought we would in year one and here we are in year five and we have tripled the number of people doing it. This year we raised almost $30,000,” he said.

“My favorite thing about it is the big cross section of people we get to participate. Obviously there is the law enforcement community, but we get support from business people like the North Country Insurance Professionals. Studio 162 brought in about $4,400 this year. We have student athletes from high schools, the colleges. It’s so cool,” the chair of the Massena Polar Plunge said

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