Mild day at lake to plungers’ advantage

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Forest Park High School football players Henry Hagedorn, 16, of Ferdinand, left, Clay Eckert, 15, of St. Anthony, Daniel Eckert, 17, of St. Anthony, and Brennan Weyer, 18, of Ferdinand, run out of the water during the ninth annual polar plunge at the Ferdinand State Forest in Ferdinand on Sunday. Daniel said the water was cold but once he was in, the adrenaline helped. The plunge raised money for the Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center, the Dubois County Leukemia Association, area food banks and a local family.


FERDINAND — The air temperature hit 50 degrees as the time arrived Sunday for participants at the ninth Plunge for Dubois County to do their thing at Ferdinand State Forest’s lake.

It was so sunny and mild, a bald eagle could be seen splashing in the water on the far shore, children played on the beach with Tonka trucks and insects were spotted on the beach.

“I’m sorry the weather is so nice,” Plunge organizer Eric Uebelhor told the 56 plungers who raised $4,285 to benefit the Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center, the Dubois County Leukemia Association, area food banks and a local family with a little boy battling a rare cancer. In its nine years of existence, the Plunge has raised more than $45,766 for local charities.

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John Klem of St. Anthony listens to organizer Eric Uebelhor speak before the polar plunge at the Ferdinand State Forest in Ferdinand on Sunday.

The event 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 passed in 2013, fought a brain tumor. Paul’s father, Jay, and friends in the SP&F (youth football) family have continued the event ever since to raise funds for worthy causes and families.

A cadre of plungers have never missed a dip and several of them wore T-shirts from the inaugural Plunge for Paul. One who couldn’t be there, Scott Uebelhor of St. Anthony, had a family obligation in a snowy, icy location in Illinois.

“He did not want to stop his streak so he gave me a donation Friday and two hours ago he sent me a video,” Eric Uebelhor told the plungers.

After sweeping away snow and hacking a hole through an inch of ice, Scott Uebelhor dropped into frigid Illinois water, noting he did it for Paul when he popped up.

Once, in 2014, Ferdinand’s plunge turned seriously cold as organizers had to saw through 10 inches of ice so groups had access to a dive hole. Department of Natural Resources conservation officers who are present every year wore scuba gear that winter.

This year, conservation officers remained by the water’s edge, EMTs with the Birdseye Volunteer Fire Department hovered just past the beach and an ambulance was able to remain on standby.

Joining in for their first plunge Sunday were Darin Kemp and his 14- year-old daughter Paige, of Huntingburg.

The Kemps came wearing matching tie-dyed T-shirts Paige made during their last vacation in Orlando. For her post-plunge wardrobe, Paige added fluffy socks.

Polar plunge organizer Eric Uebelhor of Ferdinand speaks to the crowd before the event at the Ferdinand State Forest in Ferdinand on Sunday.

Plunger awards were given to the oldest participant — 69-year-old Susan McCubbin of Louisville — and the youngest — 10-year-old besties Ella Hagedorn, the daughter of Andy and Amy Hagedorn of Ferdinand, and Alexis Berg, the daughter of Todd and Audra Berg of Ferdinand.

Sponsors underwriting this year’s expenses were Sun Energy Group; Carpet Warehouse; Henke Farms Inc.; Mariah Hill YMI; Thermwood; Ferdinand Farmers Insurance Group; Kyana Woodstock; Quality Mill Supply Co.; Flip & Twist Gymnastics, Cheer & Dance; Rahman Law Office; and Blackhawk Creek LLC vacation rentals.

Eric Uebelhor noted a saying on plunge flyers and T-shirts: We aren’t crazy. We are lucky!

“We’re fortunate we have our health and can do this,” he told this year’s plungers. “There’s other people who we give this money to who cannot do it. That’s how this whole thing started.”

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