By Harriet “Pepi” Noble, a member of the Rotary Club of Mechanicville, New York, USA
Winters are pretty cold here in the Great Northeast and making a conscious decision to jump into a freezing cold lake on the first of January takes more than courage. It takes a reason so strong and so compelling that people who normally act quite sane are happy to take part in this annual event.
So on any given New Year’s Day you will find many New York Rotary members getting ready to jump into Lake George in the northeast portion of the state. It’s a hardy band of high-spirited people called Polio Bears who annually take the plunge to raise money for polio eradication.
Initiated by the Wilton Rotary Club many years ago, members from 42 clubs in District 7190 (New York, USA) joined the fun in 2007. Usually led by the current district governor, the group gets together early in the day for a hearty breakfast and then begins the routine of prepping for the plunge. Much laughter erupts when someone shows up wearing a funny hat or other crazy gear.
The bright red End Polio Now T-shirts are easy to spot from shore when the bell rings and everyone rushes into the lake. You can hear how cold the water feels by the screams and shouts. The water is usually about 43 degrees but it’s the wind chill that really determines how frosty you get. Then it’s back to the shore for foot warmers, fleece wraps, hot cocoa, coffee, or drink of choice, cheers, and lots and lots of pictures.
District governors who opt to stay on dry land find countless ways to raise money to stay out of the water. And Rotary members who want the governor to “go jump in the lake” find countless ways to convince them to take the plunge. This year, clubs raised over $10,000 to see the governor get wet.
A great new event was added this year to give other members and their families a way to contribute to polio eradication and have a great time on New Year’s Day without getting wet. Eleven bowling alleys held a Pinning Down Polio tournament with more than 250 participants, raising $25,000 so far and donations still rolling in.
With the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matching two to one every dollar raised for polio eradication, this annual event raised over $75,000!
Learn more about how you can help us eradicate polio
Originally published on A Noble Purpose. Harriet Noble is a past governor of District 7190