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Icy dive raises awareness for care of terminally ill

 

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

A CROWD gathers to watch more than 50 people jump into Sunday Lake in Wakefield during the eighth annual Regional Hospice Polar Plunge, Saturday.

WAKEFIELD - More than 50 people braved frigid water temperatures for the eighth annual Polar Plunge benefitting Regional Hospice.

Jumpers took to the shores of Sunday Lake in Wakefield to dive in honor of friends and family members who suffer or have suffered from terminal illnesses.

According to Mary Oberto, volunteer coordinator for Regional Hospice, the event last year raised nearly $15,000, and the totals from this year's fundraiser would be released sometime later this week.

"All of the money stays here," Oberto said. "We never set a goal, so whatever happens, happens. People are very generous."

In addition to diving in, some jumpers wore a variety of costumes, including a Vegas showgirl, a sailor, mermaids, penguins, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss.

For those not willing to take their chances in the chilly water, people were given the "scardy cat" option of dipping their toes in the water.

However, the faithful jumpers have remained faithful, even after eight years.

"We have very loyal jumpers," Oberto said. "Some have done it every year we've had it. Many don't like the scardy cat option. Their attitude is, 'If I'm gonna get wet, I'm gonna get wet.'"

Oberto's husband John emceed the event, and thanked the city of Wakefield, the Wakefield Fire Department and volunteer divers for helping at the lake. Ten volunteers helped with registration, along with hospice staff.

"Not only was their staff, there is also family," Oberto said. "They are automatically volunteered."

New jumpers and volunteers are always welcome, according to Oberto.

"We explain to them what it is, how much fun it is and we encourage those who have jumped to keep jumping," Oberto said. "Volunteers are also welcomed. We are in a depressed economy, but in this area, people dig deeper. We are always blown away by the support we receive."

For more information, call Regional Hospice at 906-663-0308, or visit the office, located at 100 S. Mill Street in Bessemer.