By Brittany Glassey and Kunal Kohli
Over 400 people jumped into the frigid waters of Hempstead Harbor as part of North Hempstead’s 12th Polar Plunge on March 5.
The event, held in order to raise money for the Special Olympics New York, raised $47, 244 this year, according to its website. Donors ranged from teams, such as fraternities and sororities, to individuals who just liked the cause.
“I believe in the cause,” Conrad Schnakenberg, a participant in the plunge and donor, said. “Special Olympics is an excellent cause. What they do with those kids is great. It gives them a sense of fulfillment, it boosts their self esteem, it helps them out because it gives them something athletic to do, that even prolongs their life and their quality of life.”
Participating in the Polar Plunge is a memorable experience for many. Ted Lindner, WBAB News reporter and four-time plunger, has plunged with former-supervisor of North Hempstead Jon Kaiman and has attended the event for six years.
“You literally go numb instantly,” Lindner said. “Your whole body just goes numb; you can’t feel anything. Once you’re in there, it’s okay. Then it’s rougher to get out. And when you get out, and the air hits you, it’s like a double punch.” Every time I do it, I say, ‘people that are doing this are absolutely insane,’ but it hasn’t stopped me from doing it in the past.”
Rocks and debris in the water pose a threat to jumpers, Frederick Hehn, a member of the EMS crew stationed at the Polar Plunge, said. Cuts and cramps are common injuries for those taking the plunge. All of these require some extra attention.
“We have all kinds of precautions,” Hehn said. “All kinds of bandages, splints, in case someone gets hurt. We have oxygen. We have the full ambulance crews here, just in case. Better to over-prepared than underprepared.”
The dive itself was two rounds. First, a bagpipe player led out a small group to the beach. They then sprinted into the cold water and ran back out to the cheers of the masses.
Afterwards, it was time for the bigger second group to go. They ran into the harbor and ran back out as the cold water got to them.
“The water—it was cold,” Schnakenberg said. “You go in, but you get used to it. I think right now, I’m a little adapted. I can feel it in my hands and feet, but it’s not that bad.