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Identity & Community

Quemahoning Polar Plunge Takes New Direction

What started as a benefit for Special Olympics Pennsylvania at the Quemahoning Reservoir has evolved into a mix of live music, roaring bonfires and a lot of cold water.

The Chillin’ for Charity Winter Festival and Arctic Splash, has partnered with 16 nonprofits in Cambria and Somerset Counties with the hopes of raising $100,000 from donors looking to take a dip in the reservoir, all in the name of charity.

Event Coordinator Paula Eppley-Newman said Special Olympics Pennsylvania moved its plunge to Canoe Creek State Park in Hollidaysburg this year. To keep the tradition alive, the community created its own event and opened it to more charities.

“We decided, rather than just concentrate on one nonprofit, we were going to open it up to a variety of local, community-minded nonprofits in our area,” she said.

Last year, more than 500 people took a dive into the Quemahoning Reservoir and more than 3,000 people donated a total of $75,000, according to Eppley-Newman.

“It’s exciting to know that we live in a community that’s willing to get out there and just support their favorite charities,” she said. “It’s exciting to know that we can call on the business community and step forward and they help us to make this happen.”

While the format of the plunge hasn’t changed, Eppley-Newman said the 3,000 expected spectators will be able to watch it in a new way.

“There will be a live feed that people all over the venue can watch them going into the water,” she said. “They don’t have to push to the front to try to see their folks, so it will make that a little more enjoyable for spectators.”

Participants can register and select their charity of choice online, or they can donate to the general fund if they can’t decide which nonprofit to support. Donors can take the jump by themselves or can form a sponsored leap team.

“The event might be a cool splash in the water, but it gives you a really warm feeling in your heart once you’ve done what you want to do and accomplish for your charity,” Eppley-Newman said.

The festival begins at 9 a.m. Feb. 14 at the Quemahoning Family Recreation Area. The Arctic Splash starts at 1 p.m.