WESTFIELD — This year’s Law Enforcement Torch Run Western Massachusetts Polar Plunge takes place Sunday, March 10, at Hampton Ponds State Park, 1048 North Rd., Westfield.

Officer Erica Ireland of the West Springfield Police Department, who helps organize the Polar Plunge events along with a committee of other first responders, described the fundraiser as  “A dip into a cold body of water to support an amazing charity.” She continued, “We already have 37 teams registered and have reached $62,000 fundraised this year. Last year we were able to raise $75,000 and we are hoping to reach that or surpass it in 2024.”

Plungers walk, or run, into water about 4 feet deep from a beach. They don’t have to completely submerge themselves unless they want to. Many take the plunge as part of a team, often in coordinated costumes.

Registration and check in begin at 10:30 a.m., with the plunge starting at noon. Along with teams of hardy plungers jumping into the cold pond water, there will be food for sale, merchandise for purchase and music from DJ Paul. Awards will be given to the top fundraising team, top fundraising individual, most spirited St. Patty’s Day individual and team, and many more. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Special Olympics through the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

In 2020, Special Olympics Massachusetts was contacted by a triathlete team that wanted to run a winter fundraiser. Ireland had been organizing fundraisers in the area for more than a decade, and Special Olympics contacted her to see if she could join forces with this triathlete team. With that, Ireland started researching and going about organizing the first Polar Plunge in Westfield. That first year’s plunge raised $25,000.

“Our original vision was to create one of the biggest family-oriented fundraisers in the winter in Western Mass. that raises awareness and celebrates inclusion for the Special Olympics,” said Ireland. “There are 19 Polar Plunges going on in Massachusetts this year. This is the only Polar Plunge in Western Mass.”

Some of the teams that are signed up are the Westside Copsicles, Holyoke 2nd ROC, Paper City Jakes L1693, Sheriff Cocchi’s Ice Breakers, Agawam Police Department, Stop Drop and Plunge, South Hadley Firefighter Relief Association, Western New England University, Cross Light Gospel Church, Westfield Fire Department Local 1111, Springfield Rifles Rugby Club, Artic Angels, Freezin’ for a Reason, Pammy Mammys Crew, Westside Special Olympics team, Team Tynic, Train Gang, Just Josh in Ya, Arctic Armadillos, Bertera Subaru and Wheeler Warriors. Individual participants include West Springfield Police Chief Paul Connor and West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt. Westfield businesses involved this year are Proampac, Westfield Gas & Electric, Savage Arms, Richard’s Grinders, and many more that donated.

Participants can register at bit.ly/rp27ek, and can create a team, join an existing team or register as an individual. For questions, email eireland@westspringfieldpolice.org.

Ireland asked all participants to wear water shoes and bathing suits; costumes are welcome over the bathing suit. The water is usually between 35 and 38 degrees in March, and may be warmer than the air. Organizers suggest that participants bring warm clothes to change into immediately after their plunge. There will be heated changing tents available.

Every person that fundraises at least $100, will receive the 2024 Western Mass. Polar Plunge shirt with all the business sponsors listed on the back.

“We hope for this year to make the event bigger,” Ireland said. “Invite more people from surrounding communities and to get the word out. We want people to enjoy the outdoors and support a great cause at the same time.”

She reminded participants that March 10, is “spring ahead” day, so they should remember to set their clocks one hour ahead to make it to the pond on time.

Miasha Lee
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