CAZENOVIA — Those who leap into Lee Lake for the 20th anniversary of the polar bear plunge cancer benefit will take their final jump in Cazenovia.
The event’s organizer Terri Benning said the event is ending after two decades because finding volunteers has become difficult.
“It’s been extremely hard,” she said. “We have a base group we count on, but each year there are less and less.”.
Benning said the event began two decades ago to honor a Cazenovia resident who died from cancer. The first polar plunge raised $5,000. The event raised $350,000 the last 19 years for the Greater Richland Area Cancer Elimination or American Cancer Society, an amount Benning said surprised her.
The day will start with the auction, food and raffles at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 29 at the community center on North Street while the plunge takes place at 2 p.m. Parking will be available around the block of the community center and uptown. Signs will be posted to lead towards the community center.
Items up for auction include a quilt, handmade wooden items, a five day African safari trip and donations from several other items from individuals and areas businesses. Raffle tickets are available for $2 each or three for $5.
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Bear hugs, blue pieces of paper to write the name of a loved who has died from cancer, will be available for purchase at $2 each or three for $5. The names will be read at the lake before the start of the plunge.
Those looking to jump into Lee Lake can register the day of the event or print off a form on the Lee Lake Polar Bear Plunge Facebook page or pick one up at Cazenovia businesses Ma and Pa’s Pit Stop, Boston’s Bah, Soltwedel's Store and Alibis Bar & Grill.
Those who want to receive an incentive prize of a stainless steel mug reading “I took the final plunge” must raise a minimum of $50 in pledges, but it isn’t required to jump. An average of 50 people a year sign up to jump into Lee Lake for the event, with people coming from not only the Richland County area, but also Reedsburg, Janesville and Sheboygan, Benning said.
Those who don’t want to jump into the frigid Lee Lake can still support the effort by sponsoring a plunger or attending the auction to purchase a raffle ticket, she said.
Benning said she walks in the water every year to advocate for those battling cancer even though it feels “horrible” and described it as “more needles than you can imagine” going through your body.
“Me walking in that water and being able to get back out again is a lot less painful than what those who are suffering from cancer are going through,” she said.
The fire department and EMS will be on hand. A warming house and hot chocolate will be located next to the lake.
Anyone looking for additional information on the Lee Lake Polar Bear Plunge can call Benning at 608-983-2397 or Laura Geffert at 608-415-1044 or visit the event’s Facebook page.
Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.