2018 Plunge: Freezin’ for a reason

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Andy Verkamp of Kyana, left, Dave Rogier of Ferdinand and Eric Uebelhor of Ferdinand exited the chilly water during the seventh annual polar plunge at the Ferdinand State Forest in Ferdinand on Sunday. Funds raised benefit the Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center, Dubois County Leukemia Association and area food banks. For more photos, click here.


FERDINAND — More than 40 participants raised $6,000 Sunday at the seventh Plunge for Dubois County at Ferdinand State Forest.

It was a near record for funds raised, falling shy of only the inaugural event’s total of $9,700. In the seven years of its existence, the Plunge has raised $42,000 for charity.

This year’s funds raised are benefitting the Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center, Crisis Connection, the Dubois County Leukemia Association and area food banks, plus there are plans to help with a couple of familie’s mounting medical expenses.

The Plunge began in 2012 as the Plunge for Paul to help raise funds for Pine Ridge Elementary student Paul Fischer’s medical expenses as the youth, who died in 2013, fought a brain tumor. Paul’s father, Jay, and friends in the SP&F Football (youth football) family like organizer Eric Uebelhor have continued the event ever since to raise funds for worthy causes.

In 2014, the plunge turned seriously cold as organizers had to saw through 10 inches of ice so groups had access to a dive hole. Indiana Conservation Officers who are present every year wore scuba gear that winter.

Polar plunge organizer Eric Uebelhor of Ferdinand tossed a plunger award for the oldest participant to his wife Jackie, 60, before the seventh annual polar plunge at the Ferdinand State Forest in Ferdinand on Sunday. In 2012, the first plunge was held as "Plunge for Paul" to raise money for Jay Fischers' son, Paul Fischer, who passed away in 2013 after battling a brain tumor for more than a year. For more photos, click here.

This year, despite there still being snow from Saturday in shady spots along the state forest’s main entry road, it was 51 degrees in the open air and a conservation officer at the edge of the state forest lake estimated the water temperature at 37 to 40 degrees. EMTs with the Birdseye Volunteer Fire Department also hovered at the shore.

“We’ll go in in groups of 10 or 12,” Uebelhor said during a briefing that proceeded an invocation by Forest Park Football Coach Ross Fuhs. “We just can’t have 25 go in and 23 come out.”

Southridge Middle School language arts teacher Aaron Wiles of Ferdinand was a first-time plunger. He learned about the event while playing basketball with Uebelhor.

“I wasn’t going to miss it,” Wiles said while meeting Paul’s grandfather, Stan Fischer, who explained the genesis of the event.

Stan pointed to a carpet rolled out on the beach. “We heard you were plunging so we rolled out the carpet for you,” he said.

“I appreciate it,” Wiles said. “Thank you.”

Polar plunge participants Gracie Graves of Ferdinand, 14, left, Philicity Collignon of Ferdinand, 14, and Kendall Barth of St. Anthony, 14, dunked in the chilly water at the Ferdinand State Forest in Ferdinand on Sunday. For more photos, click here.

Teens who took honors last year for best costume were back with a vengeance Saturday. Gracie Graves, 14, Ferdinand, and Kendall Barth, 14, St. Anthony, had buckled chin straps affixing decorated plungers to their heads to come as the Plunge Squad last year. This time around, they added friend Philicity Collignon, 14, Ferdinand, and they wore tutus and special shirts to spell out their team name: BRR.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s for a good cause,” Gracie explained.

Chris and Amber Horney and 12-year-old Trevor Berg, all of St. Anthony, were a first-plunge household. “The whole way here I was going, ‘This is crazy. This is crazy.’” Chris said.

But he got into the spirit of the event by wearing board shorts, American flag sunglasses and a large furry hat, all of which he kept on while racing into the lake.

The oldest plunger was Uebelhor’s wife, Jackie, at the tender age of 60.

The youngest plunger was 9-year-old Riley Blessinger, daughter Dr. Brian and Ashley Blessinger of Huntingburg.

Forest Park football players Zach Lueken of St. Anthony, 17, right, Garret Berg of Ferdinand, 16, Cory Uebelhor of Ferdinand, 15, and Brennan Weyer of Ferdinand, 16, held a contest to see who could stay in the water the longest after the seventh annual polar plunge at the Ferdinand State Forest in Ferdinand on Sunday. Uebelhor won the contest and Berg placed second. "As soon as I got in, my legs went numb," said Berg. For more photos, click here.

Uebelhor’s son, Lee, was once again joined by a contingent of his Lambda Chi Alpha brothers from the University of Evansville. One of the fraternity’s philanthropic staples involves leukemia research so, even though they started the event while in college, brothers from out of state can be expected to show up any given year, Lee said.

Sponsors underwriting this year’s expenses were Sun Energy, J.W. Masonry, Carpet Warehouse, Henke Farms Inc., Flip & Twist Gymnastics, Cheer & Dance, Ferdinand Farmers Insurance Group, Thermwood, Kyana Woodstock, Quality Mill Supply Co. and Mariah Hill YMI.

“I feel lucky I can do this every year,” Jay Fischer said. “The first plunge was in honor of my son. I feel somewhat honored as well as then obligated because every year there’s other people who are in the same situation.

“It’s a moment of pain and discomfort to be able to help people in the community.”

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com