Members of Team Hib Tac, dressed in matching costumes, take the plunge through the ice on Lake Vermilion. Team members include Jen Nelson, Joe Roberts, Janelle Janezich, Joe Bergan, and Hari Chang. All were first-time plungers.
LAKE VERMILION—Sunshine and mild temperatures provided the best possible conditions for the more than 200 people who turned out Saturday to watch the United Way’s annual Arctic Splash event at Bay View Lodge.
But temperatures in the upper 20s could do little to limit the shock value for the nearly 40 jumpers who took turns plunging into the icy waters of Lake Vermilion, through a twelve by twelve-foot hole carved from the ice the night before. Most surfaced wide-eyed, shrieking, and already scrambling towards the exit ladder and Bay View’s waiting sauna.
For spectators, it’s just good entertainment, and for United Way, it’s a big-time fundraiser, as the 11 teams that took part this year raised over $22,000. A few spur-of-the-moment jumpers helped boost the final fundraising total to $23,661.
The accompanying snowmobile ride and other events of the day helped the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota raise a record $50,671, a 31 percent increase over last year’s record haul. The money raised will help UWNEM fund a number of valuable programs, including Imagination Library, Buddy Backpacks, and Smiles Across Minnesota.
UWNEM Executive Director Shelley Valentini said everything, including the sunny weather, came together for a great event. “We’re so excited about how this event has changed and grown over the years,” said Valentini. “There are just so many people, sponsors, participants, and volunteers that we couldn’t do this without. We sure appreciate their support in making it all happen.”
Top honors for the most money raised went to the Support the Girls Team, composed of Melanie Stickney, Sue Smolich, and Laura Hakala, which raised a record $6,294.
Best Costume honors went to Mustang Sally, otherwise known as Sally Peterangelo.
While plenty of volunteers helped put it all together, Valentini offered special thanks to the county rescue squad, whose members spent five hours the day before the event, laboriously cutting and removing huge blocks of ice in order to make the hole. The members also donned survival suits and spent almost an hour in the frigid water assisting the plungers.
The event will return to Bay View next year, with some new ideas already in the works, according to Valentini.