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Participants Brave Cold Waters for ‘Polar Bear Plunge’

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BAY VILLAGE, OH -- It's a unique New Year's Day tradition in Northeast Ohio!

Hundreds of thrill seekers took a quick dip in frigid Lake Erie Wednesday as part of the annual "Polar Bear Plunge."

"Father, I ask that you watch those that are jumping, that they will be safe. Watch over them and protect them. Allow them to come out safely. I ask that in Jesus' name. Amen."

Pastor Bob Yuravak from Christ The King Church in North Olmsted started the event with a short prayer before he started the countdown.

Many human polar bears ran in and came out as quickly as they could while others took their time in freezing water.

"It was cold, but your body got warm with hypothermia,” said Nicolette Kunath, a first-time plunger.

The polar bear plungers all jumped into the icy cold lake at Huntington Beach in Bay Village to raise money for the Rescuing The Perishing food truck that feeds and helps the homeless in Cleveland.

"We go downtown every Tuesday and feed the homeless out of a 16 ft. box truck. These people are very dedicated, they have been going to work and taking pledges and raising money and this is our main fundraiser for the whole year," said Sue Loparo, of “Rescuing The Perishing. ”

Most people dressed up for the chilly weather, but one opted for minimal attire.

"A lot of the homeless guys have to stay outside 365 days a year. I figured we all can do this one day for a couple minutes," said Tony Schultz of North Ridgeville.

Organizers at Christ The King say each year they get more and more polar bears to jump into Lake Erie because more and more people want to help.

"You know, the church needs to reach outside the walls and we finally get that message out and people are coming along beside us and want to help the homeless and I think that's what has caused us to grow so much. They understand it's not just a church thing,  it's a humanitarian thing."

Last year, these polar bear plungers raised $18,000 for the Rescuing the Perishing food truck and this year, they hoped to raise more.

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