Intrepid plunge into Lake Wylie for Special Olympics

adys@heraldonline.comFebruary 22, 2014 

— The guy wearing the dress, with the hairy chest and legs that were even hairier, stood next to Batwoman and quipped: “Great day to go jump in the lake.”

Batwoman, Tracy Ogden, said it sure was a great day to jump in the lake.

So they both jumped into the lake.

The water was 48 degrees – maybe. The dress stuck to the guy. In the cold, the guy in the dress looked, somehow, even uglier.

Batwoman, Ogden, said immediately after rushing out of the water that it felt even colder than 48 degrees: “But I would do it again - in a heartbeat.”

If her heart did not stop from the cold.

They were not alone.

About a hundred grown men and women, and kids, too, jumped into Lake Wylie in the second area Polar Plunge Special Olympics fundraiser at Ebenezer Park. Many who plunged are Special Olympics athletes.

The local plunge, like others around the world, is a test of courage and guts or just zaniness. The goal is to raise the $32,000 it takes to put on the Area 11 games for 1,100 York, Chester, and Lancaster Special Olympic athletes in April, and raise even more money to send the best to state and national and even world games.

The plunge – a rush from the shore into water waist or chest deep –took less than a minute. It was accompanied by howls, screams, yells. Outards and maybe even innards came close to freezing.

Yet 19-year-old Dale Johnston, face painted, bare-belly painted, rushed in anyway.

“Not even that cold,” Johnston claimed, after he said it was pretty cold.

The follies of youth; or maybe he is just tough. Because many who plunged wailed from the cold. Some did not.

Kenny Phipps, wrecker driver at Interstate Towing normally, a man’s man plunged in wearing boots and his wrecker-driver uniform with the Day-Glo stripes. He would not yell in pain if a polar bear bit off his leg. His wife, Desiree, leaped in wearing a Tu-tu. They jumped because they have a son who is a Special Olympian, and a cousin, and others.

“We want to make sure no child is left behind,” said Kenny Phipps. “Even if this water is cold as it can be.”

The air temperature at plunge time was 59 degrees. The sun was out. It seemed warm. The water proved it was still winter.

“It was as cold as a thousand ice cubes in one huge bathtub,” said Marissa Flaherty, a Special Olympics athlete who was dressed as Wonder Woman.

Yet she plunged. All the gutsy plunged. Marissa Flaherty was asked why she did it, why all these people jumped in a lake on a cold Saturday. She spoke without hesitation and said all that needed to be said.

“Because every Special Olympics athlete is a winner,” said the Wonder Woman, Marissa Flaherty.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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