The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

January 2, 2014

Cold start

Polar bears greet new year with icy plunge

SHARON — While some of us made New Year’s resolutions to do everything from getting in better physical shape to spending more time with our loved ones, about 100 people took a far more shocking approach and jumped feet-first into the icy cold Shenango River, welcoming 2014 with a big splash.

Organizers of the event said Wednesday’s dip may have been a tad bit colder than in previous years, with the water temperature at 39 degrees, according to Matt Lenzi, who along with his wife Darlene and friend Todd Boyer had participants sign waivers acknowledging the risks. The air temperature was a brisk 22 degrees.

“I like to say it’s a great way to wash off last year and baptize yourself for the New Year. Sometimes I say it’s a heck of a cure for a hangover, too,” Lenzi said.

Snow was falling and teeth chattering as participants stripped down to bikinis and swim trunks, lining up to make a mad dash into the murky water behind Quaker Steak & Lube in Sharon.

“Remember,” Lenzi instructed the crowd, “if you don’t go all the way under, you’re not a true polar bear. If you don’t go all the way down, then you only just got wet,” he said.

The oldest participant was Clarence Harms, of New Wilmington, who will turn 80 in a few days. A college professor, Harms said the polar bear plunge was one of the items on his bucket list and he missed out on a similar opportunity when he lived in Alaska.

“I like the excitement of it,” he said. Harms dared his grandson, Chance, to go in with him. “I will. Then I’ll come out and make a snow angel. I’ll be fine,” he said.

Harms, an environmental scientist, has crossed a lot off his bucket list already, including scuba diving with sharks and crossing the African Serengeti in a hot air balloon. Left to do yet, he said, is to dive the Great Barrier Reef “before it or I am gone,” he said.

For Gino Lenzi, a son of Matt and Darlene, the frigid swim is a holiday tradition.

“I love it. At first, it takes your breath away. Then it’s a rush,” he said.

Sisters Suzanne and Kelsey Kepple, of Sharon, weren’t sure what to expect.

“I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie,” Suzanne said, “and I talked her into doing it with me.”

“This might be one and done for me,” said Dave Mogg, of Hubbard, who came with some friends. “I’m not big on making resolutions or doing that kind of stuff. But this is one thing I’d like to take off my bucket list,” he said.

Polar bear plunges have been going on nationwide since the 1920s. Typically a fundraising event for charities, with the biggest one held in Maryland, where “Plungapalooza” raised $2.2 million for Special Olympics with some 12,000 participants.

The Shenango Polar Bear Club was the idea of Boyer, who learned of the events in other places and convinced the Lenzis to join him for a dip in the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh a few years ago.

“And I thought, ‘We have a river here, we can do it at home,’ ” he said.

Though the event has raised money in the past, this year’s jump was just for fun, just to keep the tradition going, he said.

Text Only
Local News
  • News briefs from April 17, 2014

    Man arrested for running from accident scene

    UPMC, Southwest eyeing security at hospital

    Crashes cause diversion of Interstate 80 traffic

    Court supports prison term in chase case

    Woman gets 5-10 years in crash that killed officer

    April 17, 2014

  • Officials pledge support to sewer project

    Publicly declaring their intention to donate county land to the Upper Neshannock Watershed Authority, Commissioners Matt McConnell and John Lechner said there’s no need for Commissioner Brian Beader to worry about the loss of the sewer project at the Interstate 80/Route 19 interchange.

    April 17, 2014

  • Griswold Avenue fire Neighbors tried to save victim

    As flames and thick smoke poured out of a Sharon house Tuesday evening, neighbors rallied to try and save the man who lived there alone.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Woman nabbed, sister sought in assault

    Southwest Mercer County Regional police have arrested a Hermitage woman for breaking into a home in Farrell and beating a woman and are seeking the alleged assailant’s sister.

    April 16, 2014

  • Despite good deeds, man going back to prison

    Linda K. Kretzer had nothing but praise for Raymond C. McKelvey.

    April 16, 2014

  • 15-year-old legal battle returning to county court

    State Supreme Court has let stand a Superior Court decision sending a landmark medical malpractice case back to Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

    April 16, 2014

  • Southwest mulls how to adopt study points

    Even though some members of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department had little respect for a study of the department completed by a consultant, Chief Riley Smoot Jr. pledged to implement as many of the study’s recommendations as he could.

    April 16, 2014

  • Beader plans to resign, just not yet

    Democratic Mercer County Commissioner Brian Beader acknowledges that he intends to resign, but said nothing will happen until after he meets privately with the county’s judges next Thursday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Wildlife fund for park Aiding Buhl Farm animals

    Some of Steven Jubelirer’s fondest memories of his mother, Natalie, was when they would walk together in Buhl Farm park, Hermitage.

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • News briefs from April 15, 2014

    Man charged with attack on his wife in Walmart

    Woman arrested for stabbing man with knife

    3 injured in pickup-motorcycle crash

    April 15, 2014

  • Judge orders Marin removed from ballot

    Saying the testimony of Congressional candidate Mel Marin of Sharon wasn’t credible, the Commonwealth Court has ordered Marin’s name removed from the Democratic Party’s ballot for one of area’s congressional seats in the May primary because Marin now has less than the required 1,000 valid signatures.

    April 15, 2014

  • Fire ruled accident, but cause unknown

    The fire in Greenville-Reynolds Industrial Park was most likely started by workers who were gutting the building, according to a deputy fire marshal.

    April 15, 2014

  • Mertz Tower fire Mertz tenant charged with arson

    A tenant who was being evicted from her apartment because of bizarre behavior is accused of setting her sofa ablaze at Wade D. Mertz Towers in Sharpsville.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tickled reflexology and pedicure salon Crafting a new downtown

    We’ll know better five years from now what lasting impact public interest in the arts and boutique shopping had in efforts to revitalize downtown Sharon with small businesses.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Have van, need drivers to serve elderly

    April 14, 2014