Brave souls take a dip in Valley-Wide’s first Polar Plunge for charity

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Miss Teen Inland Empire, gown and all, takes the cold plunge into the Valley-Wide Aquatic Center pool to help local charities, including the Valley Queens at the Polar Plunge. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District’s first Polar Plunge for charity brought more than 100 brave Hemet San Jacinto Valley residents to take a dip in the 51-degree Diamond Valley Aquatic Park pool Saturday, Jan. 11.

“This is something we had thought about for several years,” Dean Wetter, general manager of Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, said. “And it’s finally here for charity.”

Coming out to jump into the cold pool were many children and adults, along with officers and members of the charities benefiting from the event. The event was free, but donations were accepted for the charities including the Friends of Valley-Wide, Living Free, THE Center, Valley Community Pantry, Valley Resource Center, Historic Hemet Theater and Valley Queens.

Center of attention was Valley Community Pantry’s Executive Director Jim Lineberger who dressed in a large shark balloon floaty, snorkel and flippers who jumped into the cold children’s wading pool flopping around and trying to entice the watching youngsters jump in to save him. There were no takers, since many had already won their “Certificates of Survival” by jumping or sliding into the cold waters earlier.

One of the bravest children was 9-year-old Little Sister Annabella Anderson who took the cold dip four times that morning and even challenged adult swimmer and Historic Hemet Theater representative Kathy Jensen-Robinson to swim across the length of the pool. Jensen-Robinson won with a shivering ending but – not by much.

“Half way across I was frozen and couldn’t even think no more,” Anderson said, but when asked if she was ready to take the challenge again with a cold shudder, she said, “No!”

The Hemet San Jacinto Valley Queens turned out dressed in their gowns and took the plunge sliding down the Aquatic Center slide with a big splash. They swam to the edge of the pool to wrap themselves in a towel and run to a waiting warm shower and a quick change.

Craig Shultz, Valley-Wide public information officer, said, “I took one for the team,” as he took the slide down into the cold water.

No one else from Valley-Wide volunteered.

“It was my idea to do it this year, with a smile,” he said.

Each of the polar bear swimmers received their “Certificate of Survival” and a bright blue T-shirt signifying the unheralded bravery and benefiting charity. All of the donations collected went to the swimmers’ chosen charity for the event.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.