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Polar bears plunge into big, cold blue

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Felicia Santos, left, and Pam Sbragia play in the lake at the Polar Bear Plunge at Ski Run Marina on Sunday. The plunge is a fund-raising event for Special Olympics.
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Other than love or bravado, few things in life could get 40 people to plunge in 37-degree water in winter at South Lake Tahoe – and in costume at that.

But that’s exactly what happened at high noon Sunday from the Ski Run Marina during the second annual Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Northern California.

Organizers estimated $10,000 was raised, the same amount as last year.



“Anybody ever tell you to jump in the lake. Now here’s your chance,” the announcement blared over the speakers at the pier as people lined the beach.

And with that, a collage of enthusiasts dressed in outfits ranging from Wonder Woman and Big Bird to a Lipton Brisk Ice Tea can and hula dancer took to the water. Last year, some people scaled back their dunk to a simple dip of the toe into Lake Tahoe.




This year, plungers – about as many as last year – hurled their bodies in the near-freezing temperatures.

Karen Kerley of Minden thought she may psychologically feel warmer by wearing a Polynesian outfit – complete with grass skirt. Her friend, Teri Byers of Gardnerville, called her crazy but came out to support her anyway.

Giggling and screaming were the orders of the day, with not a wet suit to be found.

There were heroes and heroines.

When she’s not helping patients with their medical records at Tahoe Fracture & Orthopedic Medical Clinic, Debbie Frederick jumps in the lake in a Wonder Woman costume.

This was her second year – the first of which was performed in her 17-year-old wedding dress.

“I’ll do it every year. It’s for a good cause,” said Frederick, who’s also the team’s swimming coach.

Despite that, Frederick pointed to her leg marking the spot where she turned around in the water.

“That was enough for me,” she said, standing next to her 13-year-old son, Tony.

Debbie Rose submerged herself with her Lipton Ice Tea outfit thrown together in a half-hour. The Tahoe Beach & Ski Club worker raised $220 with two colleagues.

Donations have been up and down with Special Olympics Team Tahoe. For those wanting to contribute, they’re accepted at: P.O. Box 18055; South Lake Tahoe, CA 96151.


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