Three fraternity brothers took the plunge in stride, casually wading in and returning the same way.
Three fraternity brothers took the plunge in stride, casually wading in and returning the same way.

ADA — At 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, it was 26 degrees in Ada; a solid 20 degrees colder than the day before, and 10 degrees below the historical average for the season. On the pond behind ONU’s King Horn Sports Center, members of the Ada-Liberty Township Fire Department swung picks and mallets, levering up six-inch thick chunks of ice to clear a more-or-less square space roughly eight feet on a side. Then, securely, if not particularly fashionably, garbed in bright yellow protective suits, four of the firefighters slipped into the pond. There, bobbing in the water or buoyantly floating on their backs like so many flourescent seals, they waited.

From a white tent erected just a few feet away, two ONU students emerged — one male, one female — dressed in shorts and, in the case of the woman, a brief top. The pair gingerly walked down a rubberized mat to the water’s edge. Without preamble, they leapt into the pond, surged back up, spun, and with a shouted, “That’s cold!” raced back up and out.

And so it went for roughly three hours. Some 100 of ONU’s finest, dressed more for a spring break beach than for this Northwest Ohio winter, dove, strode and leapt with abandon into water hovering just above freezing.

Welcome to the 10th Annual ONU Polar Plunge.

A fundraiser instituted and organized by the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, the event offers intrepid souls the opportunity to go polar for a fee, a piddling $5 to test one’s mettle, resolve and will. And for those a bit less adventurous, they can sponsor someone else to take the dip for them. Benefitting from all the cold cash raised is the American Red Cross. According to the fraternity’s philanthropy chair, Joshua Pettay, this year’s event is expected to bring in just over $1,000.

Even as the fraternity brothers and their friends were taking their dips, fire department personnel grabbed an opportunity for training in relatively unfamiliar conditions.

The men practiced rapid grounding, clawing their way and out of the water with the assistance of hand-held spikes. They also deployed a collapsible pontoon-like apparatus capable of both coursing over the water with the use of an oar, or gliding along the ice.