ST. MARYS — Dozens of Roughriders braved frigid temperatures — on land and in the water — to take a plunge that one day may lead to a cure for cancer.
Memorial High School held its annual Polar Plunge Sunday afternoon at the Dammeyer residence on Dowty Road. The plunge, which is organized by the students, raises money for the school’s Relay for Life team.
“We have about 115 members on the Relay team and we all have the same goal in mind — to raise money for cancer research,” Adviser Karen Newlove told The Evening Leader. “The students pull together, it’s their event and they are in charge.”
By being in charge, Newlove said the students learn firsthand the importance of community service.
“Our goal, as advisers, for when they get out of high school is to do service,” Newlove said. “We have a lot of graduates who are continuing after graduate with polar plunges and Relay for Life.”
This year’s event was the polar opposite of last year’s plunge. Temperatures topped 70 degrees in 2012.
This year, the air temperature was 29 degrees and the water temperature was 38 degrees.
“The weather is a challenge,” Newlove said. “These kids are up for that challenge and I am proud of them.”
Josh Fenwick is one of those graduates who returns each year. Sunday’s plunge marked Fenwick’s seventh leap into frigid water for cancer research.
“Everyone is working toward one goal — Relay for Life,” Fenwick said. “It’s a fun day.”
Fenwick encouraged underclassmen to get involved in the plunge as well as Relay for Life.
“It’s really not that bad,” Fenwick said before jumping. “You really aren’t in the water that long. It’s all in your mind.”
Fenwick revealed his decision to return every year for the plunge is to help honor his grandfather.
“I think it’s really important — it’s one thing we really need to strive to cure,” Fenwick said. “My grandfather had cancer and that’s a big reason why I am here. I want to raise awareness.”
Jessica Hardeman, a senior at Memorial High School, was one of the organizers of this year’s plunge. Hardeman, a veteran of the Polar Plunge, first participate during her sophomore year as a way to get involved at school.
“My favorite part of being involved is seeing everyone come together,” Hardeman said. “It’s like we are a big family. We all have, at least in some way, a connection to cancer and it’s changed our lives.”
Before jumping, Hardeman said she should have to mentally prepare herself for the icy water.
“I’m going to become a human ice cube,” Hardeman said. “People go through years and years of hardships, I feel like I can freeze for a couple of minutes in honor of all of their trouble.”
In addition to the plungers, scores of supporters attended to plunge. A bake sale helped the team raise more than $8,700 so far as part of Relay for Life.
“This is really important for our school,” Hardeman said. “It makes me feel good. Everyone in the city knows we come together for this.”
Hardeman encouraged her fellow Roughriders to get involved in next year’s plunge and the school’s Relay for Life.
“Every year there are more and more people who join,” Hardeman said. “I think they should do it. You get together and it’s a way to meet new people. It’s also a good cause. You come together and you cannot believe how much you actually raise.”
Before the plungers took to the water, balloons with the names of those who battled cancer were released. Last year, two of the balloons reached Tiffin and fell into the hands of two people who battled the disease.