Super Polar Plungers
By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142FW Public Affairs
/ Published March 09, 2011
PORTLAND, Ore. --
Oregon Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Jarrod Johnson is trying to sleep on the job. He is 20 hours into the "Super Plunge", a fund raising event he is participating in for Special Olympics Oregon. The 142nd Fighter Wing has donated tents, heaters and other equipment for a robust handful of volunteers jumping into the Columbia River each hour, for 24 hours straight on February 11-12, 2011.
"I am trying to dig down deep and finish the last 4 jumps into the river," said Johnson.
Each hour, at the top of every hour, 20 other Super Plungers storm the beaches and dive into the sub 40 degree water, then run back out to dry off and try and get a few minutes of rest to do it again each hour. Staff Sgt. Johnson changes into dry clothing, hangs up his Air Force BDU uniform to dry and tries to sleep again. "Being cold and wet is one thing, but the sleep depredation can be far worse."
A different team leader is chosen each hour as well to keep the group inspired and energy high. Funny costumes and goofy wardrobe changes keep an atmosphere enjoyable after each plunge as well.
Some of the Super Plungers like Cathy Gidley of Portland are wide awake and telling jokes. "This has turned out great; I thought we would be all huddled together in some small tent freezing."
Another super plunder, Melinda Roth, a Salem resident, sits cuddled up in her chair, inside the well-heated tent donated for the Super Plunge by the Air National Guard.
"It's been fantastic with all the support, donations and the facilities," said Roth.
She personally has raised over $10,000.00 for Special Olympics, as each Super Plunger has a minimum goal of $4,000.00 to participate in the Super Plunge. As a group, this hearty bunch has raised over $65,000.00 for Special Olympics. Two of the Super Plungers are Special Olympic athletes and participate in other events throughout the year with funds from the Super Plunge.
Before long the group starts to rise and make their way out of the tent and down a sandy banked trail to the Columbia Riverfront beach. The sun is beginning to crest over the north slope of Mt. Hood, but the water is still cold and waiting for them. Then, with blankets hitting the sand and everyone instantly running, they charge the shoreline and jump in again as the clock hits the top of the hour.
"Yeah were crazy, but crazy for a good cause," said Gidley.